Monday, December 11, 2017
Opinion

Column: What FSU needs in a president

Florida State University is well positioned to attract a new leader. FSU has risen to rank among the top 40 public institutions while being named the most efficient high-quality university in the nation for the last two years.

We must select a president who can soon lead FSU to become one of the top 25 public universities. The ideal president should have a strong background in academics, administration and fundraising. Integrity, of course, is a must. The candidates' strength in the three areas will vary and can be balanced by the executive team.

ACADEMICS: The hard work of generations of FSU leaders came to fruition when the governor and the Legislature finally recognized the university in 2013 by naming FSU one of two pre-eminent universities out of the 12 institutions in the state university system.

Our goal to achieve Top 25 ranking must be embraced by the new president. It is encouraging to know that FSU already meets many of the Top 25 criteria. In those where it lags — like No. 70 in faculty-to-student ratio, No. 54 in class size and No. 70 in resources per student — additional funds from pre-eminence matched by donations over the next five years will help close the gap.

FSU has numerous schools and programs that are ranked nationally. This excellence must be maintained and others must continue to be added.

The respect of peers of the new president will be essential in paving the way for FSU to be invited to the prestigious American Association of Universities.

The new president must understand and support FSU as a top research institution and the home of several respected centers, including the National Magnetic Lab.

The best way to continue to improve quality is to reward our faculty. The president should make it a priority to provide outstanding faculty with monetary rewards and continue hiring new faculty.

Last, but most important, are our students. FSU has had great success in producing Rhodes, Fulbright and other outstanding scholars. This effort should be continued and enhanced. We must be assured that our students graduate, in a timely manner, with a top-flight education.

ADMINISTRATION: The president has responsibility for the safety of 42,000 students, the well-being of nearly 17,000 faculty and staff, a $1.35 billion operating budget, as well as a nearly half-billion-dollar endowment.

The president needs to embrace organizations that are fervent supporters of university, as they provide much-needed resources and serve as the eyes and ears around the nation. The advice of their volunteers and staff leaders is critical to the university.

Athletics is an area that common sense tells us should not be singled out any more than, let's say, chemistry. But we all know they are, as they say, the "front porch" of the university. Last year FSU found out how great winning a football national championship can be. It unites our supporters, produces extra funds and will attract more students to apply. This will go a long way in helping us achieve the Top 25 goal and generate a tremendous amount of favorable publicity, as well as some negative.

Athletics needs to be given the proper place in the administration, led by a capable athletic director with compliance as a priority.

FUNDRAISING: For FSU, this area encompasses several arenas for the president:

1. Private funds: The university is halfway in its billion-dollar capital campaign entering the critical public portion. The momentum must not be lost. Donors — especially major donors — want to hear from and be courted by the president.

2. Public: FSU counts on the Legislature and the governor to secure public funds and set the tuition and fees each year. The president must work with the Board of Governors of the State University System to help secure additional funds and obtain approval on a variety of items.

3. Grants: As a major research institution, FSU relies on funding from grants from a variety of sources. The president must be effective in leading faculty and staff in securing them.

The search for the next FSU president should have no preconceived limitations. We should cast a wide net around the world.

The search presents an opportunity for many to contribute to FSU's future. The 300,000-plus alumni, faculty, staff, students — all Floridians — are welcome to give your opinion, as I have given mine. Go to www.FSU.edu/presidentialsearch.

Leslie Pantín is vice chair of the board of trustees of Florida State University. He wrote this exclusively for the Tampa Bay Times.

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