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University governors step back on presidential selection plan

ORLANDO — The board that oversees Florida's state university system took a step back Thursday from a plan to broaden its role in the selection of state university presidents after the measure drew opposition from school officials and some of the board's own members.

Officials said the Board of Governors will need to redraft the proposal and return to the measure when it meets again in August.

The proposal would have required two members of the board to be included in presidential selection committees. Chancellor Mark B. Rosenberg asserted the measure was meant merely to increase the board's involvement in a process that, under current rules, allows board members to do little more than ratify presidential nominations.

But some board members, university presidents and trustees countered that it could complicate the process, notably by adding geographic obstacles for members to travel to selection committee meetings. Board member Ava Parker said the measure would help board members get to know presidential candidates better, but others said Florida's open government already makes that possible.

"I think it puts you in an awkward position," said K.C. Clark, trustees chairman at the University of West Florida. He wondered what might happen if the board members disagreed with the university selection committee members on a presidential search.

Before Thursday's meeting Jim Smith, trustees chairman at Florida State University, wrote the chancellor to complain that the measure was a "needless micromanagement and interference."

The board's new chairwoman, Sheila McDevitt, who takes the gavel Aug. 1, told reporters after the meeting, "We've had about three or four governance changes in higher education in 10 years. We need stability now, and obviously there has been tensions among those groups. ... I'd like to put that in the past. We'd like to move forward."

The push and pull among Florida's university leaders came during the board's first meeting since the end of this spring's legislative session, in which lawmakers proposed a constitutional amendment to strip the Board of Governors of its independence and make it subordinate to the Legislature. The measure failed.

In other business, the board elected McDevitt, a Tampa attorney who joined the board in 2003, to succeed Carolyn King Roberts as chairwoman for a two-year term. Roberts will continue to serve as a board member.

University governors step back on presidential selection plan 06/19/08 [Last modified: Thursday, June 19, 2008 10:07pm]
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