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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Search committee narrows FSU prez list, unenthusiastically



The search for a new president at Florida State University got rocky Tuesday, when some members of the search committee said they aren’t enthused with the pool of applicants and would rather appoint an interim leader while the search is extended.

“There is not one yes vote on this list for me," said Florida State alumnus Ken Van Assenderp, a Tallahassee attorney. "I am not ready to interview anyone yet from this list. We would be better off waiting two years with an interim than being slaves to this search process."

Over the objections of Van Assenderp and some other members, the search committee ultimately chose three candidates from the pool of 26 applicants to invite to campus for interviews over the next three days. They are:

  • Kevin Bedell, vice provost for research, Boston College
  • Eric Barron, director, National Center for Atmospheric Research.
  • Steven Leath, vice president for research, University of North Carolina.

“It’s critical we have the kind of president who can take advantage of the job that has been done in raising the academic status of the university to where it is today,” said trustees chairman Jim Smith. “FSU is really tee’d up for someone who can take it to the next level.”

Some search committee members lamented the lack of a sitting president or high-profile provost among the applicants. Search consultant John Hicks said Florida's open records laws make successful university administrators reluctant to apply to a job in which their interest will be so publicly known.

“If additional candidates come forward, we will bring it back to this committee and we can decide whether we want to elevate them for further discussion," Hicks said. "But you know, I am sitting here looking at this list nad I see some very good candidates.”

Others aren't so sure, and they said they would rather start all over again or extend the search.

“I’m not sure the pool is sufficiently large to enable us to make the wisest possible choice,” said biology professor Joe Travis, dean of FSU’s College of Arts and Sciences. ”Many of these people are excellent academics, but I think there’s some narrowness of experience.”

Smith said the president who replaces T.K. Wetherell needs to be an academic who raises FSU’s research profile while also raising $1 billion over the next several years.

“I have been out trying to recruit candidates, and the first question I ask is, if you’re not comfortable that you can raise $1 billion in 5 or 6 years, then let’s end this conversation right now.”

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 10:43am]


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