A search committee agreed Friday to set a goal of recommending a new president for Florida State University by late-September.
The timeline comes with a new search consultant set to spend the next two months recruiting additional candidates, as the shadow of a well-connected politician continues to hang over the process.
Alberto Pimentel of Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, whose contract has yet to be finalized, is slated to hold forums with students and faculty on the search process next week at the Tallahassee-campus. Some of those with whom he is expected to meet continue to call for the job to require applicants to have distinguished academic credentials.
Faculty members have expressed concerns that the restarted process remains tilted towards powerful Sen. John Thrasher, R-St. Augustine.
“Our objective is to have more than one (finalist),” said Presidential Search Advisory Committee Chairman Ed Burr.
The committee agreed Friday to a timeline that will require potential applicants to file by Sept. 2. The committee would whittle down the pool of candidates three days later. Interviews with select applicants would be held the next week.
The finalists would be asked back for additional interviews the week of Sept. 15, with the committee’s recommendation coming Sept. 22.
The FSU Board of Trustees would then have to recommend the selection to the Florida Board of Governors.
“The quality (of applicants) is going to dictate the speed,” Pimentel said over the phone to committee members.
The timeline places the completion of the selection process between the primary and general elections.
Thrasher, the former House speaker and the chairman of Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign, is up for re-election and faces challengers in both contests.
Committee member Cliff Madsen, professor of music at FSU, expressed concern that the search timeline is too short, noting that new staff hires sometimes take a year. Meanwhile, committee member Jimmy Patronis, a Republican state representative from Panama City, was concerned about the reaction applicants will receive “back home” once it is known they are applying for a new job.
When prior consultant Bill Funk recommended the search be paused so that the committee could interview Thrasher, Funk noted that Thrasher’s desire for the job and the state’s Sunshine Law were keeping other potential applicants from putting their name forward for the position.
Funk, who has received $61,000, through fees and reimbursed costs, as part of a contract worth $75,000 plus expenses, resigned last week after receiving a vote of no confidence from the Faculty Senate.
After Thrasher filed an application, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, and Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston also asked to be considered for the job. The interview with Thrasher was postponed, and the process was reopened.
How the committee has handled process prompted Board of Governor member Dean Colson to say Thursday that the search has “damaged the national reputation of FSU.”
Committee members didn’t address Colson’s comment on Friday, but students and faculty brought it up during public comment.
“Is this truly a university, or is it a multifaceted corporation that happens to teach some classes?” said Jennifer Proffitt, president of the FSU chapter of the United Faculty of Florida.