FSU likely to resume open search for new leader

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Florida,Higher Education

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida State University, which had opened the door to appointing a top Republican politician as its next president, appears likely to resume a wide open search.

Just last month a search committee voted to interview State Sen. John Thrasher alone for the post vacated after Eric Barron stepped down to take the top spot at Penn State University.

But on Tuesday evening the FSU trustee leading the search announced he wants to postpone the interview with the chairman of Gov. Rick Scott's re-election committee and instead set a deadline for other candidates to apply.

The search committee had voted to interview Thrasher first and decide whether to offer him the job after hearing FSU was having trouble attracting quality candidates.

But three days ago Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston, who is an FSU alumnus, abruptly applied for the job. Other candidates are continuing to apply for the post as well.

Ed Burr, chairman of the search committee, wrote to the committee members that "recent events have made me increasingly optimistic that a traditional search process now appears more feasible than anticipated at our last meeting."

"This has persuaded me that allowing this phase of the search to evolve before conducting any interviews would be most effective," Burr wrote.

Thrasher, R-St. Augustine, is a former House speaker with longstanding ties to FSU. When he was speaker he helped get FSU a medical school. He is also an attorney and was a lobbyist between his stints in the House and Senate.

But the decision to interview him generated a backlash from students and faculty who suggested he was getting the nod due to his political connections. The FSU faculty union even said it had "lost confidence" in the search.

The search committee is scheduled next week to vote on resuming the open search.

But the decision to do that may not be unanimous.

Rep. Jimmy Patronis, R-Panama City and a member of the search committee, said he was concerned about "slowing down the selection process." Patronis said it was important to try to get a new president in place by this fall. FSU is currently in the middle of a major fundraising campaign as part of an effort to elevate the school to the ranks of the nation's top public universities.

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