Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Bizarre development in chancellor search

In yet another desperate attempt to repair its credibility problem with the Florida Legislature, the Board of Governors is winding back for a new “Hail Mary” pass. Its plan: appoint a sitting public university president as interim State University System chancellor when Mark Rosenberg steps down in February.

“We need someone who can quickly come up to speed, who knows the issues, who knows the people, who knows the Legislature,” said BOG spokesman Bill Edmonds.

The decision is an awkward one. Each year, public universities compete against one another for funding and programs. Now, one president will receive a BOG-endorsed advantage. He’ll get a direct say in his competitors’ annual evaluations, help guide the process of approving or disapproving degree programs at their institutions, and have strong input into which of their project proposals make it into the board’s system-wide legislative request.

Still, none of the “fair-minded” individuals on the BOG seem concerned about the possibility of a conflict-of-interest.

These shenanigans aren’t unprecedented for the BOG. Back in 2005, the board gave its blessing for then-BOG member Castell Bryant to apply for FAMU’s interim presidency. No one thought it was conflict-of-interest for an SUS governor to seek employment from the very trustees she supervised (and could help vote out of office). No chance for intimidation there.

Rather than holding a search process that’s fair to all public universities, the BOG seems narrowly focused on massaging its own bruised ego. In 2007, the BOG sued the legislature for control over tuition-rates. Also, in response to SUS budget cuts, the board froze freshmen enrollment at a number of public universities. The moves prompted an angry backlash from lawmakers; the BOG has been a political outcast ever since.

If it is to gain any respect in Florida politics, the BOG has to find a chief executive who can get along with state representatives and senators. Public university presidents tend to be good at that task. The BOG knows this and is willing to use it to further its agenda – even if it compromises the best interests of all the other state universities.

That being said, the process-of-elimination gives some hints on who the interim choice could be. Chairwoman Sheila McDevitt has revealed that the person she has in mind is a “he,” so that removes USF President Judy Genshaft and UWF Interim President Judy Bense from the list. FAMU President James Ammons and UCF President John Hitt are both unlikely because they vigorously oppose the Pappas Plan, which calls for their universities to become baccalaureate-only institutions.

FGCU President Wilson Bradshaw is a newcomer to the SUS, which means it’s much too early for him to head the entire system. New College President Gordon Michalson has statewide respect as head of the Florida Association of Colleges and Universities, but is known more as an academician than politician.

UNF’s John Delaney, a former Jacksonville mayor, has political experience, but it’s primarily based in one city rather than statewide. FSU President T.K. Wetherell would bring political clout, but he has never been close with the BOG or held them in high regard.

That leaves FIU’s Modesto A. Maidique, UF’s Bernie Machen, and FAU’s Frank Brogan.

Maidique’s appointment could be justified on the basis that he’s the SUS’s longest serving president. However, the chancellor position doesn’t seem to fit his style. He’s traditionally worked behind the scenes and actually opted against taking the chancellorship in 2005. Instead, he let his provost, Rosenberg, go up to the state capital and take the public heat (which ended up burning him badly).

Machen has a good track record with the legislature, but has made some serious political missteps during his tenure. For example, he attempted to give an honorary doctorate to former Gov. Jeb Bush, only to have his own faculty senate publicly embarrass Bush by striking the idea down.

That leaves Brogan, Bush’s former lieutenant governor. Brogan has experience as a former Florida education commissioner and many years of success with legislators. The Palm Beach Post doesn't think he’ll get the nod because he’s on the chancellor search committee. However, the interim chancellor won’t be eligible for the permanent job, which could clear the way for him to take the post.

Check back on RN for updates. An announcement could come as soon as this week.

Read more here.

McDevitt talks up sky-high tuition during FAMU visit

Chancellor search: BOG aims to fix credibility problem


Anonymous said...

The most we can hope for is that the man will have a few bones of integrity when he occupies the seat and that he will be fair to all. Also, let us hope that this interim appointment doesn't last as long as our former interim's presidency: two and one-half years. I do think, however, that the app't. poses a serious conflict of interest. As I said, let us simply hope that he is a man of ethical character, integrity, and all that encompasses those values. Short of that, there's not much that that we can do if he's selected to fulfill the position.

Anonymous said...