A presidential search roiled by political controversy is doing Florida State University no favors, state Board of Governors members said Thursday at their meeting in Orlando.
"I think it's damaged the national reputation of FSU, the way this search has played out," said board member Dean Colson, a week after FSU's well-regarded search consultant abruptly quit.
The issues at FSU — highlighted by divisions on the search committee and vocal criticism over state Sen. John Thrasher's front-runner status — come on the heels of embarrassing missteps at other universities, board members said. The most recent: a dispute over the contract of new Florida A&M University president Elmira Mangum that exposed divisions in that school's board of trustees.
So on Thursday, Board of Governors Chairman Mori Hosseini suggested a plan to rein in the universities' latitude by standardizing how they find presidents. He wants to:
• Put more Board of Governors members on search committees and clearly delineate the responsibilities of everyone involved in the searches.
• Identify common job descriptions and qualifications to ensure that universities are recruiting candidates that meet the schools' missions and Board of Governors' priorities.
• Establish benchmarks to ensure that searches are consistent.
• Create guidelines for compensation.
Member Tom Kuntz will work with the university system chancellor, Marshall Criser, on the proposal and report back to the board in August.
Members appeared particularly miffed about the FSU search committee voting to make Sen. John Thrasher the sole candidate. The decision was reversed after considerable criticism erupted.
The board's sole representative on the committee, Ed Morton, joined the students, faculty and staff representatives in voting against the Thrasher plan. FSU leaders should have realized that Morton's position signaled a serious problem, since the entire Board of Governors ultimately approves each presidential hire, member Alan Levine said.
"That should have been a very strong signal,'' he said.
FSU has hired a new search consultant, but it has not set a deadline for finding its next president.