By all accounts, a chancellor position in the Florida State University system sounds like a great job. She oversees 12 institutions serving more than 430,000 students, runs a multi-billion dollar budget and comes with a salary of over $400,000.
However, a recent search for a new chancellor for the second largest public university system in the United States yielded only eight applicants.
The ninth application, which lacked material information and included President Joe Biden as a reference, was marked “incomplete.”
None of the applicants had experience as a college president, a qualification that experts say is often coveted in a system president. Some have been international applicants who have spent most or all of their careers working outside the United States, although the University System Board of Governors insists it has conducted thorough research, the depth of the applicant pool frustrates experts who suggest the state’s divided political climate has stifled interest by job.
In the end, the board of directors hired Ray Rodriguez—a former lawmaker and allied unionist for Republican Governor Ron DeSantis—from the shallow pond. But the other candidates they talked to Within higher education She suggests that reform was underway from the start, with Rodriguez being elevated to the top of the resume pile based solely on the strength of his political credentials. They say he was appointed as the governor’s ally by a state assembly staffed with DeSantis appointees.
The Florida Board of Governors voted unanimously to appoint Rodriguez on September 14. Rodriguez will replace current Chancellor Marshall Kreiser, who is retiring. The employee completed a search in which only two candidates were interviewed, while some other applicants were not contacted.
The center was open for applications for 30 days, and closed on August 12.
“The Board of Directors’ Search Committee for Advisors has conducted a comprehensive search to fill the position of advisor,” Renee Vargasson, a spokesperson for the Board of Directors, wrote in an email. “The application process has been open for 30 days. This position has been advertised on the online job platforms of Higher Education Records, InsideHigherEd and HigherEdJobs. Each month nearly 7 million people visit these three online platforms.”
Why did Fargason answer the list of questions Within higher education Sent about the research, she said Rodriguez was not available for an interview before it officially started – a date that Fargason also said she was unable to provide. Likewise, the final salary details are yet to be announced.
Three applicants spoke to Within higher education They said they were never contacted during the research process, even to confirm receipt of the submitted materials. The other candidates did not respond to requests for comment.
One applicant – who applied because he thought he could make a difference to the role – was highly critical of the hiring process, noting that Rodriguez had been carefully selected from the start.
“They decided that the qualifications were essentially to be a political ally of the state’s executive leadership,” said the applicant, who asked not to be named to discuss the research freely. And as far as I know, this would be the only consultant in the country without a Ph.D. So you lose any outside perspective, any sense of innovation or any real understanding of academia, what it takes to teach, what it takes to do research, what it takes to deal with disadvantaged students. 20 or 30 years of experience, expected in the position of a regular consultant, went in; It doesn’t exist and it hurts the state of Florida.”
The applicant and others described the handling of the research process as “unprofessional” and questioned Rodrigues’ qualifications. In his autobiography, Rodriguez lists 11 years of corporate experience and 16 years in various positions at the University of Florida Gulf Coast, where he is the Director of Interagency Partnerships. His highest academic qualification is a master’s degree from FGCU.
In his application, Rodriguez also promoted his legislative experience, which spanned 10 years in the Florida House and Senate. Rodriguez noted his sponsorship of controversial 2021 legislation that DeSantis advocated, including SB 264, which created a survey of diversity of viewpoints for students and staff that faced strong opposition from academics and then received few responses when distributed.
Critics of the legislation likened the poll to a political test for university employees.
Rodriguez also noted his sponsorship this year of SB 7044, which requires public institutions to change accreditation agencies at the end of each accreditation cycle. Critics of the bill see it as political retaliation against the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools on Colleges, the regional accrediting agency for Florida institutions. SACSCOC sent letters to individual colleges in 2021 seeking information about a potential conflict of interest in recent presidential research at Florida State University, as well as about a gag order issued by the University of Florida regarding professors who sought to participate in a lawsuit opposing government voting restrictions.
A US Department of Education official warned DeSantis against approving the bill before it could be signed into law.
SB 7044 also allows the Board of Governors to design its own tenure review process for professors—despite current campus policies—a measure that critics, including the American Association of University Professors, have denounced as an attack on academic freedom.
Outside observers note that eight applicants for a college system the size of Florida is an unusually low number. They also said that it is common practice to inform applicants of receipt of their materials.
Jason Lin, dean of the School of Education, Health, and Society at Miami University in Ohio and a senior fellow at the National Association of Chiefs of Systems, said he had not heard of other states having trouble attracting good candidates for top leadership searches. He believes that the shallow pool of applicants in Florida does not reflect a shortage of available talent but rather concerns about The political climate of the country.
“There are often contextual issues of the state that will dictate what people are interested in, and I think that given the political controversy in Florida at the moment, one’s time is likely to be spent quite a bit in the political realm. I think that might have prompted some People may have to self-select from opportunity at the moment, when they might have been interested in that role.”
Others point to additional factors that contribute to the sparse applicant pool.
Heads of the system are less visible positions in the higher education world and that these searches generally attract fewer applicants than presidential positions, Jay Lemons, president of executive search firm Academic Search, said via email.
He also pointed out that the function of the head of the system differs greatly from that of the head of the college.
“System heads’ jobs are very different from campus leadership. System heads are usually the crucial link with state governments,” said Lemons. “They also have responsibility for and oversight over many universities that serve an entire nation rather than focusing on a single campus.”
He adds that career paths for such positions are very diverse, with some heads of systems moving up through the campus ranks and others with backgrounds in fields such as government. He said political expertise can help regime leaders navigate their responsibilities.
“Given the central role of systems public finance, having a system head with knowledge of government and relationships can be very helpful,” Lemons said. “The challenge can come if these people do not know, understand or respect higher education and how leadership and change management work in the academy.”
Lin agreed that the political background could benefit the head of the system.
“I think the benefits are that they understand the political side of the state, and they have established relationships, which I hope they can use to the benefit of the system and their constituent precincts,” Lin said. “I think the challenges – and we see it even at the campus level – are a lack of understanding of the higher education sector, how it works, the issues on the ground that are being dealt with in terms of education delivery and the life and work of faculty. People who come from outside of higher education They do not understand the machinations of higher education work. In the same way, someone in higher education [who] They jump into business, they probably won’t understand how intrigue works – they have their own culture, so there’s often some difficulty there. “
Feedback on recruitment
When Rodriguez was officially appointed as the new chancellor, local media reported that the move was “widely expected,” citing his deep political connections. Rodriguez had announced in June – the same month that Kreiser announced his intention to retire – that he would not seek re-election for his Senate seat. He then applied for the position of chancellor on July 13.
News of Rodriguez’s appointment sparked both congratulations and condemnations. Note fellow politicians Anne Rodriguez is a first-generation college graduate and has been praised for his work ethic. The Board of Governors called Rodriguez an “experienced and dedicated leader.”
But those who have opposed some of the legislation Rodriguez has sponsored worry that it will advance DeSantis’ agenda that they believe harms the state’s public higher education.
Andrew Gotthard, president of Florida United College, said there was a perception that Rodrigues was appointed to the chancellor position based solely on his prior political experience.
“Our position at the UFF is the only people who should be in it [executive] Positions are people with a great deal of experience in higher education, preferably faculty, but also administrators, and that we should not put political appointees in this role. And so we have some concerns about the appointment of Senator Rodriguez because of his political background. “We feel that was the number one reason for his appointment,” Gotthard said. “Now, he has some management experience due to his work at the University of Florida Gulf Coast. But we don’t think that was the main reason for his appointment. We think the main reason for his appointment has to do with the legislation he has sponsored regarding higher education over the past few years. Unfortunately, we are at odds Big with Senator Rodriguez about what makes good higher education policy.”
Gotthard specifically cited opposition to SB 7044 this year and SB 264 in 2021. Although his sponsorship of the legislation concerns faculty, Gotthard said the union wants to give Rodriguez a chance to establish common ground and establish himself as a leader.
“I believe that everyone deserves a chance to prove themselves, especially in a new leadership role. So we certainly have a number of hopes for the way Chancellor Rodriguez will act, but these hopes in no way undermine our commitment to full and vehement opposition to all policies and actions that would harm the regime. Higher Education: “We want to give him a chance to do a good job, but we are watching him and are ready to go after him and after the Board of Governors if they continue to make decisions that will harm our higher education system.”
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