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Ruth: Stress-free search for FSU president

Thrasher emerged as FSU’s likely next president.

Times files

Thrasher emerged as FSU’s likely next 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.

Ruth: Stress-free search for FSU president 05/28/14 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 28, 2014 5:22pm]
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