Thursday, April 26, 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: It’s up to Florida’s voters to restore felons’ civil rights now

The disappointing ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court should erase any doubt that the decision on restoring voting rights for felons rests solely on the conscience of Florida voters. A tortured ruling by the minimum majority of a three-judge ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

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...
Published: 04/23/18
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...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

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...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18