By Ryan Dailey
Amid a pause in Florida Atlantic University’s search for a new president, leaders of a First Amendment group and a national higher-education association are pointing to a controversial new law shielding presidential candidates’ identities as harmful to public trust and academic freedom.
Meanwhile, a former state senator who was the main sponsor of the 2022 legislation told The News Service of Florida this week that some people involved in college and university presidential search processes have “perverted the intent” of the law.
The measure, signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, created a seismic shift in the way colleges and universities can conduct searches for new leaders. The changes came as nearly half of Florida’s universities were seeking new presidents.
The law, in part, created a public-records exemption for information that could identify applicants until near the end of searches, when information about finalists can be released. Information about other applicants, however, remains shielded.
The law also provides a public-meetings exemption for searches until finalists are determined, unless meetings are held for the purposes of establishing qualifications for the positions or “any compensation framework.”