A Senate committee approved a public-records exemption for applicants seeking top university jobs Wednesday, despite objections by some students and faculty members citing the presidential selection at Florida State University.
Sen. Alan Hays, R Umatilla, said potentially valuable candidates for president, provost and dean positions are not applying in Florida because of the state’s sweeping public-meetings and open-records laws. His bill (SB 182) would allow applicants for those positions to apply privately until lists of finalists are made and interviews are scheduled.
Hays said no one knew former FSU President Eric Barron was going to Penn State until it was a done deal. Former state Sen. John Thrasher succeeded Barron in a process marked by prolonged protests by faculty and students who said he lacked academic credentials and got the job through political clout.
Hays said there were only eight applicants for the FSU presidency, possibly because well-qualified candidates at other schools did not want their employers to know they were looking. In Florida, unlike Pennsylvania, an applicant’s name would be in the public record from the start.
“I’ve got to believe that the number would be significantly greater if we offer this kind of protection,” Hays said of his bill.
Sen. Jack Latvala, R Clearwater, who voted for the proposal, said members of executive search committees have told him “our sunshine law hinders the application process for the best people” who have jobs elsewhere.
“You look for people who are working,” Latvala said. “People who aren’t working, sometimes there’s a reason they aren’t working.”
Lakey, an FSU graduate teaching assistant who uses only one name, said students and faculty members want to know the names of potential university leaders from the start of a search. She was a leader of the anti-Thrasher protests last year and said the FSU selection committee and trustees decided “to fast track Sen. Thrasher” before he even applied for the post – and to “dismissand put aside” others. “I’d use the FSU example as a premier reason that the Sunshine Law needs to stay in place,” Lakey said. “Universities are not corporations. They don’t run their business behind closed doors.” The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee voted 4-1 for the proposal, which was approved last month by the Senate Higher Education Committee. It now goes to the Rules Committee for scheduling of floor debate in the Senate. A companion measure by Rep. Neil Combee, R Augurndale, (HB 223) is pending in the House Higher Education and Workforce Committee.
Original article here.