[Marxism] The right guy to succeed Leon Botstein if he retires

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed Sep 24 07:10:51 MDT 2014


John Thrasher, Likely Florida State President, Is Ethically Challenged
By Chuck Strouse Thu., May 22 2014

John Thrasher, a Florida Senator and now the lone candidate for 
president of Florida State University, doesn't deserve the job.
Thrasher, a Republican lawyer, was reprimanded on the House floor back 
ithe 1990s after appearing as a lobbyist for his longtime employers, the 
Florida Medical Association. A year after leaving office, he had to pay 
a $500 fine after hosting a luncheon for his State House pals -- state 
law prohibits pols from lobbying for two years after leaving office.

In 2010, another controversy arose when it was disclosed that he had 
earned a $1.6 million from a lobbying firm that advocated for a bill he 
was pushing. Though he denied ever lobbying on behalf of the law -- 
Senate Bill 6, which would help two out-of-state firms get a foothold in 
Florida high stakes testing, the deal stunk, "Thrasher could find 
himself answering a lot more uncomfortable questions," concluded blogger 
and columnist Joy Reid.

That same year, disgraced Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer 
claimed in a lawsuit that Thrasher and two others had agreed to a secret 
severance for $124,000 as well as $200,000 in hush money so he wouldn't 
talk about it. Really, a university president who has agreed to pay hush 

I covered the Florida legislature during the early years Thrasher was in 
office. The man was brusque, hard to reach, and always seemed to have 
multiple motivations for his actions.

Florida State is perhaps this state's top educational institution -- 
definitely one of the best two or three. Students there deserve a better 
role model.


Chronicle of Higher Education September 24, 2014

Florida State U. Board Picks Politician as President Despite Widespread 

By Peter Schmidt

Florida State University’s Board of Trustees voted overwhelmingly on 
Tuesday to name John E. Thrasher, a powerful longtime state lawmaker, as 
their institution’s next president, defying faculty members and students 
who had favored other candidates with more-traditional academic 
backgrounds and who denounced the selection process as tainted by 
political favoritism.

Some board members, in voicing support at their meeting for Mr. 
Thrasher, a Republican state senator who was the board’s chairman 10 
years ago, expressed hope that he would be able to use his political 
skills to mend the campus’s divisions over his selection. One such 
trustee, Joseph Gruters, predicted that Mr. Thrasher would win over 
faculty members by securing additional state funds to raise their 
salaries. That way, he said, "everyone will be happy."

Mr. Thrasher told the Tallahassee Democrat after Tuesday’s meeting that 
a top priority would be building strong relations with his faculty and 
student critics. The newspaper quoted him as saying he was more than 
willing to use his training as a politician to "reach out and try to 
find common ground."

But Eric Walker, a professor of English and a faculty representative on 
the presidential-search committee, predicted after the meeting that 
"there is still going to be turbulence" on the campus as a result of 
students’ opposition to the new president.

Edward E. Burr, a board member who had led the search committee and who 
voted with the majority on Tuesday, acknowledged before casting his 
ballot that Mr. Thrasher, who has never been a college administrator, 
would "have to surround himself with the right folks" to adjust to 
managing an academic enterprise.

Joseph L. Camps Jr., another board member who supported Mr. Thrasher, 
said in announcing his decision that "none of us can predict based on 
our choice what tomorrow will bring."

Troubled Process

What Tuesday brought was a board meeting that ended, after about two 
hours of heated public comment, with an 11-to-2 vote in favor of Mr. 
Thrasher over the three college administrators who were the other 
finalists. Students angered by the board’s decision immediately burst 
into chants of "FSU is not for sale!," reflecting a widespread belief 
among them that conservative business interests had unduly influenced 
the trustees’ decision.

Jeff Chanton, a professor of oceanography, warned the board before its 
vote that selecting Mr. Thrasher would be seen as "incredibly dismissive 
of the faculty."

The appointment of Mr. Thrasher will not be final until it is approved 
by the state-university system’s Board of Governors, in November. 
Although that board’s approval is widely expected, Mr. Thrasher said in 
a statement issued on Tuesday that he planned to continue his campaign 
for re-election this fall to his Senate seat.

The process in which the board selected Mr. Thrasher had been 
controversial almost from the beginning. In May, the board’s search 
committee drew protests from students and faculty members by announcing 
that Mr. Thrasher was the only candidate it planned to interview at its 
next meeting. In June, Florida State’s Faculty Senate voted no 
confidence in the search committee’s consulting firm, William Funk & 
Associates, which subsequently ceased its involvement with the renewed 
search process.

The Faculty Senate this month passed a resolution calling on the search 
committee not to recommend Mr. Thrasher as a candidate and the board not 
to appoint him as president. The resolution, subsequently endorsed by 
the executive council of the university’s faculty union, said Mr. 
Thrasher "lacks the stated qualifications required for the position," 
which the other finalists possessed. As of Tuesday, nearly 1,500 people 
had signed a petition, drafted by the union, urging Florida State’s 
board to scrap the search and start over.

When the candidates for the presidency were questioned at campus forums 
last week, Mr. Thrasher raised eyebrows by declining to clearly respond 
when faculty members asked him if he believed in human-caused climate 
change and in evolution. When students appeared to laugh at his response 
regarding climate change, he threatened to walk out.

In arguing in support of Mr. Thrasher on Tuesday, Mr. Burr praised the 
state senator, who previously served as chairman of the State House of 
Representatives and as chairman of the Florida Republican Party, as 
distinctly positioned to work with the state-university system and 
lawmakers to secure Florida State tight state funds to improve its 
national ranking. "It all starts with resources," Mr. Burr said.

Another trustee, Kathryn Ballard, said that with Mr. Thrasher’s 
appointment as president, "We are ready to explode with more greatness 
than ever."

But Margaret A. (Peggy) Rolando, a trustee who joined the board’s 
faculty representative, Gary Tyson, in voting against Mr. Thrasher, said 
the board’s decision "could come back to bite us and may be very 

Noting that Mr. Thrasher will be prohibited under state law from 
lobbying for the university until he has been out of legislative office 
for at least two years, Ms. Rolando said the board was "setting him up 
to fail" if it expected him to persuade state lawmakers to spend 
substantially more on public higher education any­time soon. In response 
to trustees’ hopes that Mr. Thrasher would help improve the university’s 
national rankings, she said the university would not gain any points on 
the reputational sections of ranking surveys "by a appointing a 
nonacademic as our president."

Tough Talk

During the public-comment portion of Tuesday’s meeting, many students 
and faculty members accused the trustees of doing the bidding of Gov. 
Rick Scott, a Republican who played a major role in selecting the board 
members and whose re-election campaign Mr. Thrasher is leading. Several 
also accused the trustees of being unduly influenced by Charles and 
David Koch, two billionaire conservative activists who have contributed 
to both Florida State and Mr. Thrasher’s campaigns.

Alexandra Reed, a senior, called the selection process "very sketchy." 
Joshua Mills, a graduate student in Florida State’s music school, said 
people "will have zero respect for this presidency." Kimberly Tate 
Anderson, a doctoral student in English, said the board should be 
prepared to be investigated by the news media for malfeasance and 
"publicly shamed."

The tone of the rhetoric prompted pleas for civility from several board 
members, including Mr. Tyson, its faculty representative, who is a 
professor of computer science and president of the university’s Faculty 
Senate. He lamented "a coarseness in dialogue" that he called 
"poisonous," and he said, "When I hear an attack on somebody who I know 
is working very hard for the university, it is very frustrating for me."

Several students and faculty members spoke out in favor of the other 
three candidates: Richard B. Marchase, vice president for research and 
economic development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham; Michael 
V. Martin, chancellor of the Colorado State University System; and 
Michele G. Wheatly, a former provost of West Virginia University. Ms. 
Wheatly drew the most praise of the three, but all were described by Mr. 
Thrasher’s critics as better suited to immediately run a university and 
to deal with people in academe on a national level.

Among the minority of speakers who spoke in favor of Mr. Thrasher, 
Talbot (Sandy) D’Alemberte, a former Florida State president who had 
suggested him for the job, said they disagree politically but "I know 
that he cares about students."

Joe Vance, president of the campus’s Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, said 
that "our entire chapter supports John Thrasher." Kyle Eastwood, one of 
that fraternity’s members, said Mr. Thrasher "will do a great job."

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