Monday, April 23, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: Stress-free search for FSU president

In its quest to find the next president of that august institution of higher learning, Florida State University (insert tomahawk chop here), the school hired a headhunter to look hither and yon, to and fro across the vast landscape of academia in search of ideal candidates with intellectual heft, scholarly rigor and the highest educational standards.

And after months of scouring the ivory tower universe, at last the consultant located one — just one — who represented the perfect fit for FSU. That would be Mr. Chips of the Apalachee Parkway, state Sen. John Thrasher, R-Plato.

Really? That's it? A professional politician who never met a check-writing lobbyist he didn't want to give a foot massage to?

In a nation with an abundance of university presidents, provosts, respected deans and esteemed researchers with long experience navigating the corridors of higher education, the best consultant William Funk could come up with was Tallahassee's answer to Tammany Hall? Apparently unavailable was the respected existentialist and humorist Professor Irwin Corey, who once said, "Wherever you go, there you are."

Just a day after former FSU president Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte nominated the Socrates of the Florida Senate to hold his former job, it dawned on the faculty union that, "Hey, wait a minute here. It sure looks like the fix may be in." There is that power of deduction that comes with having a Ph.D.

Thrasher, R-Aristotle, emerged as the only logical choice for the FSU gig because … well, just because. When you are a big-time booster of your alma mater and have the medical school building named after you, you are in pretty good shape to claim whatever job your whims demand.

But given Thrasher's "Peel me a grape" attitude toward the FSU presidency, why would the university's "search committee," which spent less time "searching" than O.J. Simpson's manhunt for the "real" killers of his ex-wife, even bother with the flimsy charade of hiring a headhunter?

This had to be the easiest fee Funk ever collected. John Thrasher, R-Professor Dumbledore? Looks good to me. Case closed.

Couldn't Funk pretend to put more effort into the presidential search than a transient checking parking meters for spare change?

And because the line of succession to the FSU leadership was more obvious than Kim Jong Un's ascendency to the North Korean throne, the faculty felt they were being treated like serfs with tenure and student and community groups criticized patronage in a gown.

"Students are upset with a lack transparency that this search process has undergone," huffed the group of malcontents. But that's not quite accurate. When the hired expert is only able to come up with a singular nominee, who also just so happens to be a Daddy Warbucks political patron of university funding, the anointing of Thrasher, R-The Yoda of St. Augustine, was as transparent as one could imagine.

The theory behind Thrasher's status as the only candidate worth considering as FSU president is that he is the best qualified precisely because he is so politically hard-wired and positioned to keep the money flowing into the school's coffers.

Thrasher, R-The Obi-Wan Kenobi of Campaign Contributions, isn't being considered for the FSU presidency because he is a scholar of late 18th century haiku. He is the sole candidate because he is one of the premier pickpockets of the Florida Legislature when it comes to collecting checks.

In a perverse sense, the marriage of FSU and Thrasher would seem a perfect fit. It was FSU, after all, that abdicated any pretense of academic freedom when it gleefully accepted $1.5 million from the Koch brothers to be spent on hiring professors — with a Koch nod of approval — for its economics department.

So why not a chap who has spent of his public life wheeling and dealing, shaking down donors and plotting political conspiracies? He's a one-man political science doctoral dissertation.

If there is any sin here it is that the cronyism is so obvious.

Animal House's Faber College dean Wormer comes off as a pillar of intellectual curiosity compared to FSU's presidential search that stretched from the campus all the way up the street to the Capitol.

Comments

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18
Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Editorial: Why single-member districts would be bad for Hillsborough commission

Anyone looking to make Hillsborough County government bigger, costlier, more dysfunctional and less of a regional force should love the idea that Commissioner Sandy Murman rolled out this week. She proposes enlarging the seven-member board to nine, e...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18