Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Start FSU search fresh and fairly

Florida State University has to decide whether it wants to reach for academic excellence or a fundraiser in chief as it searches for its next president. The abrupt exit Monday of the search committee's private consultant is an embarrassing, expensive delay in the hunt for the university's next leader, but it gives FSU an opportunity to start fresh. The committee should make clear today it is dedicated to a open, competitive search and that the outcome does not hinge on which candidate has the strongest political connections.

The departure of William Funk, one of the nation's best-known higher education headhunters, is the latest black mark on a search process that appeared rigged to hand the FSU presidency to school booster and powerful state Sen. John Thrasher. The murmurs grew to a crescendo when former FSU president Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, a former liberal Democratic legislator, wrote the committee last month to recommend Thrasher, a conservative Republican.

That led Funk last month to complain that he was having trouble persuading candidates to apply and recommend that the committee suspend its search process until Thrasher could be interviewed. That search committee agreed, which only confirmed suspicions that the fix was in. The Thrasher interview was delayed after Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston announced he was interested in the job.

This is what happens in a state where politics trumps sound education policy, where who gets a law school or a medical school is determined by legislative clout, and where higher education is starved for money. As House speaker, Thrasher pushed to abolish the powerful Board of Regents that oversaw higher education after it repeatedly objected to his demand for a new medical school at FSU. The Board of Regents was abolished, and Thrasher got his medical school. As a state senator from St. Augustine, this year Thrasher advocated dissolving FSU's longstanding joint engineering program with Florida A&M University. The Legislature eventually approved a study to review the issue. To paraphrase D'Alemberte's recommendation, Thrasher's best qualification is that he knows how to work the levers of power at the state Capitol.

Higher education is corrupted when money and politics take precedence over everything else, such as the FSU economics department's own dalliance with the billionaire Koch brothers. In exchange for a few million dollars, the department gave the donors a say in faculty hires. So much for ensuring academics is free of political persuasion — or for improving the department's stature among other institutions of higher learning.

Thrasher has been saying all the right things, including that he would check his partisanship at the door. His passion for his alma mater is sincere, and he may wind up being the best available choice to become FSU's next president. But he should have to prove himself against a national pool of qualified candidates, including accomplished academics.

The committee should send the message today that it will settle for nothing less than a competitive, rigorous open search.

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Editorial: A good first step in restoring the right to vote

Editorial: A good first step in restoring the right to vote

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Editorial: Look hard into Tampa Bay and Pinellas CareerSource CEO, and get to the bottom of the numbers and the money

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Editorial: Beware of social media targeting kids

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Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

Editorial: Too soon for Tampa Bay to settle for buses over light rail

The good news on the transportation front is that Tampa Bay’s government and business leaders are working together like never before to connect the region’s largest cities, attractions and employment centers with a more robust mass transit system. Th...
Published: 01/20/18
Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

Editorial: Saying ‘thank you’ helps Tampa police build needed trust

The smiles, applause and at least one hug belied the grim impetus for a gathering last week at a neighborhood center in Tampa — the Seminole Heights killings.The Tampa Police Department held a ceremony to thank those who helped in the investigation t...
Published: 01/19/18
Updated: 01/21/18
Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

Editorial: Criminal charges should finally wake up FSU fraternities to hazing’s dangers

The death last fall of a 20-year-old Florida State University fraternity pledge revealed pervasive dangerous behavior within the school’s Greek system. Andrew Coffey, a Pi Kappa Phi pledge, died from alcohol poisoning after an off-campus party, and a...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: Confronting racial distrust in St. Petersburg, one conversation at a time

The St. Petersburg Police Department’s heavy presence in Midtown on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the community animosity it stirred have raised a familiar, troubling question: Can St. Petersburg’s racial divisions ever be reconciled?That big ideal ...
Published: 01/19/18
William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

William March: Tampa Bay Democrats line up for state legislative races

A surge of Democrats seeking local legislative offices and hoping for a "blue wave" in the 2018 election continued last week, led by Bob Buesing filing to run again versus state Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa.In addition:• Heather Kenyon Stahl of Tampa has...
Published: 01/19/18

Editorial: State’s warning shot should get attention of Hillsborough schools

The state Board of Education hopefully sent the message this week with its warning shot about the slow pace of the turnaround at Hillsborough County’s low-performing schools.The board criticized the school system for failing to replace administrators...
Published: 01/18/18
Updated: 01/19/18