Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Is Florida Governor Rick Scott Controlling the Search for a New President at FAU?

The Board of Directors of Florida Atlantic University has released the names of 10 finalists for the school's next president. The list contains some interesting demographics. 
First, only two candidates, David Brennan and Mary Holz-Clause, who are not white men, appear on the list. Interestingly, their names are at the bottom of the list released by the Miami Herald. The list, however, is not alphabetized. It is unclear whether the search committee sorted the names this way and, if it did, why. 

Perhaps the placement of the candidates on the list demonstrates, as one independent blog contends, that the candidates are simply tokens. Staff from the Broward/Palm Beach New Times attended the meeting during which the committee narrowed the field of candidates from 61 to 10 in just under an hour (a remarkable speed). According to the New Times, the committee chose Holz-Clause at the very last minute in order to replace another candidate. The committee mistakenly believed that Dr. Gayle L. Ormiston of Marshall University, whom was chosen explicitly for "diversity," is a woman; Ormiston is, however, a man. The New Times reports that the committee added Holz-Clause in order to have one woman on the list of candidates. Committee members also allegedly joked about their tokenism:  
"We're going to hold it against him that 'she's' a 'he'?" one panelist joked. To which another remarked, "Let's not go there." Don't pack your bags, Dr. Holz-Clause.
The racial and sexual demographics of the pool strongly suggest that the committee only inserted a white woman and a black man on the list of finalists as tokens. The position is reserved for a white male candidate.  If so, this would clearly violate federal and state law.

Another interesting aspect of the finalists is that most of them have backgrounds in business. Governor Rick Scott has expressed his disdain for social sciences and humanities on many occasions. He wants to turn state-run educational institutions into corporations, even though they serve the public-- not private shareholders. The lack of academic diversity compounds the homogeneity of identity and cultural backgrounds among the candidates. 

Finally, Jeff Atwater and George LeMieux, two Republican politicians and close supporters of Florida Governor Rick Scott, appear at the very top of the list. Florida news media only recently reported that they had decided to apply for the position. Days later, they have become finalists, possibly the "top" finalists. This is probably the most disturbing aspect of the search. 

While some schools have hired politicians as presidents, the fact that allies of a sitting governor have made the list -- one Democratic politician who applied did not -- raises flags. Also, Governor Scott gave LeMieux a ringing endorsement for the job. According to the Miami Herald, Scott praised LeMieux the day before he even announced his candidacy. These facts suggests meddling, if not complete control, of the search by the state and a lack of faculty governance. That neither of these two politicians possesses a doctorate, a pretty standard achievement for a university president, is even more telling.

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