Gov. Rick Scott spoke to UF presidential candidate Woodson before asking Machen to stay
We knew that Gov. Rick Scott helped convince University of Florida President Bernie Machen to postpone retirement. Now, the Times/Herald has additional details about what preceded the Jan. 8 announcement that the UF Board of Trustees had cancelled a nationwide search to find Machen's replacement.
Scott took Board of Trustees Chairman David Brown up on an offer to talk to North Carolina State University Chancellor Randy Woodson, the rumored front-runner in the nationwide presidential search although he never formally applied. They met in Naples, where Scott owns a home, some time between Christmas and New Years Day, the governor's office said.
”They discussed Woodson's principles for higher education and the University of Florida,” Scott spokeswoman Melissa Sellers said via email. The Governor was impressed by his experience and skill.”
The Board of Trustees had planned to review applications on Jan. 10, interview finalists on Jan. 11 and name a new president on Jan. 12.
Instead, Scott and Brown made the joint announcement on the 8th that Machen was staying and that the governor had a hand in changing his mind by pledging to help make UF a top 10 public university. That surprised UF supporters who believed Machen was looking forward to retirement and that the search to replace him was going well.
Scott’s office said he met with Machen the day before that announcement, on Jan. 7 in Ft. Lauderdale. That was the same day the governor attended the BCS National Championship football game in Miami.
“They discussed the University of Florida and the importance of the school having a national leadership role,” Sellers said via email. “The Governor told Dr. Machen that he would like him to stay and continue leading the university as they pursue initiatives to improve higher education. However, the Governor recognized that such a decision would ultimately have to be made by Dr. Machen and the University's Board of Trustees.”
Machen’s office has repeatedly declined requests from the Times/Herald to talk about when he spoke to Scott and what they discussed. Woodson has also deflected questions about his conversations with Florida officials.
We asked Scott’s office if his effort to keep Machen on the job meant that he had softened his stance against tuition increases. Machen supported a bill the governor vetoed last year that would have allowed UF and Florida State University unlimited freedom to increase tuition.
No, the governor’s office said, he remains as opposed to tuition increases as he has ever been. But, just as Machen did in a in a column he wrote exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times, Scott hinted that new funding for UF may still be on the way.
The Governor and Dr. Machen had a great discussion about how to strengthen UF's role as a national educational leader and an institution that is one of the best in the country at preparing students to get great jobs,” Sellers wrote. “We look forward to announcing further details on the Governor's higher education legislative agenda in the weeks ahead.”