Despite unanimous public opposition, the Florida House Education Committee has advanced a bill to exempt university and college president and provost searches from the state’s Sunshine laws.
HB 223 would keep all applicants for the high profile jobs private while search firms or committees narrow the group to a finalist pool. That group of finalists would then be made public for a 30-day review period before a final selection.
Rep. Bill Hager, R-Delray Beach, called the measure a classic case of competing interests — open records vs. the goal of getting the “most awesome, most profound leaders for our universities.”
“We’ve heard praise for our existing presidents. I concur with that,” Hager said. “The opposite question is, who did not apply?”
Bill sponsor Rep. Neil Combee, R-Polk County, suggested that the public nature of presidential searches scares off potential leaders who do not want to have their job hunting publicized.
“If 100 apply, they know at the very best only one is getting the job,” he said. “The rest will go back home.”
Democrats on the committee joined university faculty members and union leaders against the bill.
“Our Sunshine Laws are very inconvenient in a lot of occasions,” said Rep. Joe Geller, D-Aventura. “But we have made a decision in our state over the decades that we are going to put up with the inconvenience because convenience is not the most important thing.”
Transparency is, Geller said.
He and others argued that providing comfort for a few potential job candidates should not outweigh Floridians’ right to know all they can about who might lead their major institutions of higher education. The Republicans on the committee called the Sunshine Law “great,” but contended it gets in the way when it comes to finding the best university presidents.
HB 223 next heads to the House floor. A companion bill in the Senate (SB 182) is temporarily postponed in the Rules Committee.
Original article here.