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Thursday, September 25, 2014

On choosing a new university president

At many (most?) universities in North America the selection of a new President is a very secret affair. Students and faculty are not consulted during the process and the candidates are not known. In fact, the process is so secret that the search committee can't even ask for outside advice about the candidates because that would reveal that they have applied for the job.

This is a very dangerous way to hire a university President because there's a great danger that the members of the search committee will, out of ignorance, choose someone that the university community doesn't respect. I've seen it happen at my own university and it happened at the University of Saskatchewan leading to the President being dismissed [The Board of Governors at the University of Saskatchewan fires President Ilene Busch-Vishniac].

Fortunately, Florida State University doesn't operate like that. The leading candidates for the job of President were vetted at an open forum with students and faculty members. One of the leading candidates was Republican State Senator, John Thrasher. One of the things that students and faculty learned was that Thrasher doesn't believe in evolution and doesn't believe that humans are responsible for climate change [A Creationist May Become Florida State University’s Next President].

As you might imagine, the students and faculty were opposed to hiring him as President. That didn't seem to matter to the Board of Governors who voted 12-1 to hire John Thrasher [A Creationist Just Became Florida State University’s New President] [Thrasher is choice for FSU, despite loud opposition].

From the Tallahassee Democrat ...
Storbeck/Pimentel, the search firm helping FSU select its next leader, conducted surveys following each candidate's campus forums last week. Thrasher received favorable ratings from only 11 percent of the responders, while 87 percent said he was not fit to be FSU's president. By comparison, the other three candidates had favorable scores between 78 and 91 percent.

The FSU Faculty Senate, which represents all 16 colleges at the university, passed a unanimous resolution Friday calling for the trustees to hire one of the three academics among the four finalists.

"We deserve a president who plays on the national stage, one who walks the walk, one who won't put off potential donors in the other party," Michael Buchler, a music professor and faculty senator, said during the public comment period. "FSU has never hired a president who didn't have experience in the classroom."
Apparently the Board of Governors don't care what the students and faculty think. What could possibly go wrong?


  1. I almost feel sorry for Thrasher. The faculty senate vote unanimously not to hire him but the board of governors hires him anyway. The guy's been set up to fail.

    (If the comments from students and faculty are correct, his creationism is by no means the biggest reason there will be a big learning curve ahead of him. Whether he chooses to climb it or not.)

    1. He's a shill for the Koch brothers. He's not interested in learning anything.

  2. Seems typical. Much has been made of the composition of the Republican House Committee on Science, Space and Technology. Why Americans think that republicans and conservatives are suitable for any position other than the "Committee for How to Turn America into a Theocracy Just Like the Countries We Hate" is beyond me (but not really beyond me).