Wednesday, September 17, 2014

From Tampa Bay Times: more on the John Thrasher/ FSU presidency mess … by gimleteye

Well, it looks like the sore GOP power structure in Florida is in full petulance at the public backlash against a possible appointment of a political hack, John Thrasher, to the presidency of FSU. One FSU retired professor has publicly written that he will not longer contribute to the university.

For the Tampa Bay Times, OPED writer John Romano nods to the complaint by "liberals" against Thrasher, while noting too that Thrasher is running the re-election campaign of Gov. Rick Scott. A simple analysis like Romano's dodges some important and even critical facts why Thrasher is a different sort of candidate from other former politicians whose academic pedigree was higher.

Eye On Miami objects to Thrasher's elevation to the presidency of an important research institution in Florida, because of his record of lobbying against the public interest on at least two major issues that impact Floridians: restoration of the Everglades and the civic efforts to buttress state land use planning.

Thrasher lead the fight against both Everglades restoration in 2002 and against the constitutional amendment in 2008 that sought to give voters more power over land use decisions. These were more than litmus tests of Thrasher's ideological bent. They were extraordinarily costly to the public interest.

The Jeb Bush folly against Everglades water quality standards, that Thrasher lobbied for, was done at the bidding of Big Sugar and turned into a nightmare of federal litigation that finally settled on the side of the public. Governor Rick Scott claims credit for the $890 million commitment for the Everglades that was, in fact, the result of a harsh federal court ruling against what Thrasher represented.

The case of Thrasher's charge against Florida Hometown Democracy is even more egregious. In a mailing to voters state-wide, Thrasher signed his name to flat-out lies, typical of the barrage of negative campaign tactics that have flooded the state and turned off so many voters. The further consequence of Florida Hometown Democracy was, not incidentally, to energize the state's Great Destroyers to eviscerate the state capacity for land use planning, another one of Gov. Rick Scott's most dismal accomplishments.

The state of Florida has been significantly diminished by those hacking away at the public interest and calling what they do, proud accomplishments. Simply, you don't hire a university president cut from this cloth.

Romano: John Thrasher isn't the first politician to flirt with FSU

They're trying to find a new president to run Florida State University, and darned if the whole thing hasn't gotten political. If I had to pick a turning point, I'd go with 1993.
In other words, the argument itself is not a new one.
Academic credentials or political connections?
Back in '93, the Board of Regents went with the politician, and Sandy D'Alemberte performed to pretty rave reviews. Nine years later, FSU chose another former politician, and T.K. Wetherell also had an admirable run in the president's office.
So, 20 years later, shouldn't the argument be moot?
Yes and no.
Yes, state Sen. John Thrasher's political career should not preclude him from the job. No, his political cronies shouldn't hand him the desk after a charade of a search.
This is where we are today. With Thrasher's supporters claiming he is the victim of a political witch hunt, and his critics claiming he is the beneficiary of a rigged process.
Strangely enough, I think they're both correct.
It was suggested by a member of FSU's Presidential Search Advisory Committee in a Tallahassee Democrat op-ed piece that resistance is based on liberals in the academic community having a problem with Thrasher's conservative political views.
Tallahassee businessman DeVoe Moore wrote that he did not see similar protests when D'Alemberte and Wetherell, both former Democratic legislators, were seeking FSU's presidency.
Moore has a point. I'm guessing Thrasher's politics have something to do with the tenor and breadth of protests, including the childish tittering when he was answering questions about climate change during a public interview on Monday.
But to claim this is a liberal conspiracy leaves out some important details.
First of all, the FSU search committee struck the first blow by trying to rig the process. The presidency was practically handed to Thrasher months ago until concerned voices on campus got involved. And while there were insinuations that Wetherell and D'Alemberte also had inside tracks on the job, it was never as blatant as this time around.
In fact, it's worth pointing out FSU's faculty did not support D'Alemberte's hiring. And when it came to Wetherell's candidacy, the faculty asked the head of the search committee (a certain John Thrasher) to recuse himself because he and Wetherell worked for the same lobbying firm.
Or course, there is also the matter of credentials. D'Alemberte and Wetherell were viewed as political candidates, but both had academic backgrounds.
D'Alemberte was a former law professor (for nine years) and law school dean (for five years) at FSU. Wetherell was a former vice president at Daytona Beach Community College and the president at Tallahassee Community College.
Thrasher's resume, while impressive, does not have the same higher ed experience.
So how will it turn out?
Well, it helps to know that the majority of the members on the search committee come from the corporate or political world. And it probably helps to know that Thrasher is running Gov. Rick Scott's re-election campaign, and that Board of Trustees chairman Allan Bense was appointed to his position by the governor.
So will Thrasher's politics play a role in the decision?
Romano: John Thrasher isn't the first politician to flirt with FSU 09/15/14 [Last modified: Monday, September 15, 2014 7:46pm]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thrasher's fight against Everglades Restoration and expanded Land Use Controls reveals his short-sightedness, his lack of vision, his lack of concern for the public good, and his determination to exploit and destroy this state. These alone are enough to disqualify him.

But he also lacks ANY higher education credentials that are basic prerequisites for consideration for this type of societal leadership role. The other presidents who were also political, were first and foremost academicians, and had a wealth of higher education experience at the leadership level. Politics was just an add on for them.

This man now wants to destroy one of our flagship universities. The board must say NO, and give the state a fighting chance for a productive future in our quest to expand knowledge.