FSU presidential search controversy continues

Florida State University (Capitol News Service)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida State University has narrowed down its presidential candidates to three candidates.

Notably, Florida Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran isn’t one of those, after the university’s accreditation was threatened over his candidacy. But some are now calling for the search to be halted.

Because Corcoran also serves on the Florida Board of Governors, which has the final say on university presidential hires, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the accrediting body for higher education institutions in the South, sent a letter warning the Board that FSU’s accreditation could be put at risk if Corcoran was chosen.

It was an issue raised during Corcoran’s interview Saturday.

“I think what SACS is doing, SACSCOC, in many ways is in and of itself undue influence,” said Corcoran.

Corcoran didn’t make the list of finalists -- which didn’t make sense to state Rep. Randy Fine, who severed under Corcoran’s time as speaker of the Florida House.

“Richard has shown that he is a transformative leader,” said Fine, R-Brevard County.

Alan Levine, a member of the Board of Governors, has called for the presidential search to be halted.

In an email sent to the chancellor of the State University System of Florida, he argued the letter from SACSCOC tainted the process.

Fine agreed with that assessment.

“It is not appropriate for an outside entity to look for some technicality for someone like Richard Corcoran not to be able to serve,” said Fine.

The union representing faculty at FSU told Capitol News Service it doesn’t see a problem with the SACSCOC letter but acknowledged the controversy it’s causing could mean Corcoran is still in the running.

“At the trustees meeting, they could say we’re starting over, they could say we’re adding another candidate,” said Mathew Lata, president of the FSU Chapter of the United Faculty of Florida.

The president of SACSCOC told Capitol News Service in an email that the initial letter sent to the Board of Governors “wasn’t directed to Corcoran personally.”

She stood by the stance that members of the board should resign if they’re seeking a job that the board will make the final hiring decision.

Capitol News Service reached out to the chancellor of the State University System of Florida and was sent a copy of his response to Levine’s request to halt the search. In it, Chancellor Marshall Criser declined.

“As a Board of Governors’ member, you should be equally proud that despite Dr. Wheelan’s letter, the search committee recognized the responsibility inherent in narrowing a field of president applicants and conducted itself with integrity at all times. An action by our Board at this time is counter to the integrity of the process,” said Criser.