OPINION: Senate Bill 520 enables university corruption

New bill closes the university president selection process and allows more opportunity for corruption. FLICKR/STEVEN MARTIN

Senate Bill 520 was approved by the Florida Senate last Thursday. This bill states that Florida’s university presidents should be selected in a closed process, meaning none of the records or information are open to the public.

The bill is a gateway to corruption in Florida universities and shouldn’t have been passed.

It states that information about university president applicants and the selection process will be kept secret until the pool of candidates is narrowed down to three finalists.

If this were to become law, these searches would be exempt from Florida’s Sunshine Law, which ensures that any official business conducted by a state agency, including a university, is public record.

This law ensures the public is informed on what is happening in their state government, and there is no reason university presidential elections should be the exception to this.

Senate Bill 520 will open the door to political corruption within universities. In fact, this type of corruption has already been seen in the recent selection process of the next FSU president. Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran’s application for the position can be found online.

While Corcoran wasn’t the only applicant with a political background, his candidacy was particularly concerning as he has a voting position in the Florida Board of Governors (BOG). The BOG is in charge of confirming the new president.

His candidacy was a conflict of interest and he should’ve never been in the running. It was only after harsh criticism from the public and the accreditation board that Corcoran was removed from the pool of candidates.

If this happened in full view of the public, then it is not a stretch to say the corruption would likely get much worse if this process were kept secret.

It is best to allow the public to see the entire process so there is little chance of this in the first place. This is the best way to keep legislators accountable and honest.

Supporters of this bill believe it will allow for a broader pool of applicants, according to a Jan. 27 Florida Senate Rules Committee meeting. Allegedly, it will attract candidates who would not apply otherwise out of fear they might lose their current job if their employer found out.

There’s no proof this has been a significant issue, and it is absurd to believe a closed election will suddenly bring out the best, most qualified candidates. Even if a couple potential applicants are hesitant, that is certainly not worth compromising the integrity and transparency of the selection process.

Senate Bill 520 places the comfort of potential future candidates above the well-being of actual university students and staff and completely disregards one of Florida’s most important statutes.