Orlando Sentinel by Frank LoMonte
April 8, 2019
Florida’s public universities are powerful government agencies, responsible for $12.8 billion in annual spending and the welfare of some 340,000 students. Yet year after year, special-interest lobbyists pressure Florida legislators to shut the public out from input into how university presidents are chosen.
Those special interests are back again, with legislation that just passed the House State Affairs Committee and appears on a fast track to House approval. Before they join the nationwide race to the bottom to see which state can be the least accountable, Florida lawmakers should look past the lobbying to the facts.
The fact is that there is no evidence that hiring presidents in secret, closed meetings produces more successful presidencies. There is powerful contrary evidence that secrecy results in presidents who are misfits with their campuses, or have buried scandals that should be disclosed and discussed before a costly mistake is made.
Regrettably, state after state has been persuaded by influential “executive search” firms to do away with the tradition of bringing four or five finalists to campus to meet community stakeholders. Instead, it’s now common for the public to be presented with a finalist list of one after it’s too late to have input, and with no way of verifying whether a diverse field of candidates received consideration.