Not one woman sits on the Board of Trustees at St. Petersburg College, where more than six of every 10 students are female. There's only one woman and one minority on the board at Hillsborough Community College, where women and minorities make up 56 percent and 50 percent, respectively, of the student body. Gov. Rick Scott, in finally making appointments at these two taxpayer-funded institutions, has produced boards of trustees that look more like Old Florida than new.
Women and minorities have long been underrepresented on most boards of trustees compared to the college enrollment or the community. SPC's five-member board, for example, had just one female member, Evelyn Bilirakis, and one minority, former St. Petersburg mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons, who is African-American. But the impact of Scott's recent appointments in Tampa Bay is particularly jarring.
At SPC, the five seats are now held by Gibbons and four white men, even though Scott had a chance to wholly remake the board with four pending appointments. He opted instead to reappoint Gibbons and Pinellas Clerk of Court Ken Burke and two newcomers to positions previously held by Bilirakis and W. Richard Johnston. Only Chairman Terry Brett had an unexpired term. The newcomers, insurance executive Tim North and private school headmaster Robert Fine, may well be qualified individually to serve on a community college board. But governing boards should better reflect the students and residents they serve.
The situation is similarly problematic at HCC. Nancy Watkins, an accountant appointed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, at least provides some ballast on gender. Lawyer Daniel Coton, also a Crist appointee, is a white Hispanic. Scott's two recent appointments, financial services executives Andrew Pittman and James Burt II, are white men, as is chairman Randall Reid, an accountant.
Such white, male-dominated boards were the standard decades ago — long before HCC was on the cusp of becoming a minority-majority institution and before women made up most of Tampa Bay's state college students. There were well-qualified women and minorities who would have welcomed an opportunity to help guide a local college. The governor should cast a wider net.