Archive | September 2014

Response to BOT Decision

Throughout the presidential search process at Florida State University, students were told that their voices were being heard. But really?  Who was listening? The media was listening, the nation was listening, FSU alumni, faculty, and staff were listening. But the corporate/political elite, the 11 members of the Board of Trustees that voted for John Thrasher as FSU’s President – closed off their ears and turned off their minds.  Why should they listen really? Their decision was already made for them. Their votes were gleaned through Florida’s own sordid “good ol’ boy” system.

So… When students spoke up at the Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC) meetings, we were ignored.  When we started national petitions and sent thousands of emails calling for more student votes on the PSAC, we were infantalized and dismissed. When we collected support of national organizations (AFT, NEA, USSA, AAUP, and others), the Board of Trustees cancelled its meeting, closed its doors, ignored our emails, and blatantly dismissed our comments on the Presidential Search Advisory Committee website.  When we researched and passed out information, the FSU administration threatened to arrest us on forty year old posting statutes developed to regulate war protestors in the 1970’s.

All of this so that the Board of Trustees could do exactly what it set out to do all along –  to install a three time Koch funded “ALEC Legislator of the Year” as FSU’s President.  All of this to create a “sham” process designed to look on the surface like democracy.  All of this to hide closed door negotiations, back room deals, and dark pat-on-the-back conversations not covered by Florida’s “Sunshine Laws”.   All of this so that a Thrasher created Board of Trustees could reinsert their “maker” as CEO of Florida State University, Inc.

But the cronyism and lack of transparency runs deeper than this.  Senator John Thrasher voted in favor of 2014’s latest Florida Sunshine Law exemption, namely SB 318/HB 115.  This “Thrasher supported” statute closes off public access to private donor-public university agreements like the corrupt 2008 and 2013 contracts signed between Florida State University and the Charles Koch Foundation.  These contracts give Koch power over faculty hire, graduate assistant hire and curriculum control in FSU’s Department of Economics.  The FSU-Koch agreements are unprecedented in private donor-public university agreement history and they violate FSU’s own academic freedom policy.

We find it essential to point out that:

1) Senator John Thrasher accepted funding from Koch three separate times and then LIED to the FSU community about doing so.

2) The Chair of FSU’s Board of Trustees is also Chair of the Board of Directors of the Koch funded James Madison Institute and has business connections with the Koch funded legislative group ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council).

3) Chair Bense appointed the Presidential Search Advisory Committee which had more Koch funded and ALEC connected members than faculty or staff.

4) Unlike the 2008 Koch agreement, the 2013 FSU-Koch contract was signed and sealed with Presidential and Provost signatures. The stamp of approval at the highest level of FSU administration clearly demonstrates the power Koch now wields at all levels of FSU governance.  There now exist faculty, graduate assistant, administration and even Presidential alliances with Koch corruption.

FSU’s Board of Trustees acknowledges that “Shared governance and academic freedom are inextricably connected. The Board and the UFF recognize the necessity of a strong system of shared governance involving faculty members in areas of academic concern and that elected bodies are the primary vehicle for such shared governance.”

Furthermore, FSU’s statement on academic freedom espouses the intent to “protect members of academic staff from influence, from within or without the University”.  As shared governance and academic freedom are inextricably connected, ANY corruption within the governance of Florida State University serves as a violation of academic freedom and the university’s own responsibility to “protect members of academic staff from influence” against and from corruption.  This failure of governance defies that protection, and leaves the university as a whole open to exploitation by corporate and political interests. As students, this means that the structures of our academic system and the access to “free and true” study of knowledge has dissipated at all levels. Florida State University is now willfully unprotected. The Administration, and the Board of Trustees, have forfeited the integrity of FSU’s educational system, its loyalty to truth and academic freedom, and its democratic alliance with shared governance by perpetuating the “Thrasher System” of power that attacks the very foundation of the education we came to FSU to pursue.

We do not accept a “Thrasher System” of power.  We do not accept and will not recognize John Thrasher as President of Florida State University.  We do not accept the corporatization and politicization of our education.

We demand a return of academic freedom and shared governance and will accept nothing less than this as our present and our future.

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FSU PSAC: Koch Corruption, Climate Change Denial, Domestic Violence and Cocaine Trafficking

YOUR PRESIDENTIAL SEARCH ADVISORY COMMITTEE

The LOLigarchy

PSAC MEMBER FACT SHEET

Since May 21, 2014 FSU’s Presidential Search Advisory Committee has voted three times to continue forwarding Senator John Thrasher as a candidate for president despite the constant unanimous faculty/student combined votes to the contrary and an overwhelming faculty, student and community outcry against Senator Thrasher.

Why support a Koch funded, two-time ethics violator who has consistently supported higher education budget cuts in the Florida Legislature as FSU’s President?

The facts and affiliations list below tells its own story, but we thought you should also know that:

1)   In 2008 and 2013, FSU signed corrupt contracts with the Charles Koch Foundation giving Koch power over faculty hires, curriculum control and graduate assistant hires.  This power is unprecedented in public university – private donor funding agreements and stands against a legacy of academic freedom and shared governance at FSU and in the United States in general.

2) Chair Allan Bense and Gov. Rick Scott, like Sen. John Thrasher, are Koch funded.

3) American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which you will see referenced below, is a Koch funded political lobbying organization that pushes pre-packaged legislation like Stand Your Ground.

4) The Chair of the FSU’s Board of Trustees, Allan Bense was appointed by the Koch funded Rick Scott.

5) Senator John Thrasher is Rick Scott’s re-election campaign Chair.

6) Chair Allan Bense appoints the members of PSAC.

7) There are more Koch funded, and ALEC affiliated, PSAC members than there are faculty or students on PSAC.

Who is patting who on the back? Who is picking people for their own corporate and political interests?

Allan Bense – (“Board of Trustees”)

Ed Burr (Chair of PSAC, Board of Trustees)

Jimmy Patronis (“Community” representative)

John Mckay (“RINGLING CENTER FOR THE ARTS” representative)*

Al Lawson (“Community” representative)

 

Devoe Moore (“Seminole Boosters” representative)

Ash Williams (“FSU Foundation” representative)

Kathryn Ballard (GOP, ALEC)

On the Board of Trustees:

Delores Spearman (“Community” representative)

Drew Weatherford (”Community” representative)

  • Current Florida House speaker’s brother (who is Chair Bense’s son-in-law!)

Bob Sasser (“FSU Foundation” representative)

  • CEO of Dollar Tree

Susie Busch-Transou (“Community” representative)

  • Daughter of Augustus Busch III, owner of Anhauser-Busch (ALEC member)
    • Co-owns a distribution wholesaler of Anhauser-Busch Brewing, which serves the Tallahassee area.
    • Was involved in dismantling FSU’s alcohol abuse prevention efforts in 2000
  • Was Vice Chair of the FSU Board of Trustees as recently as 2012, during which time she was allowed to vote when the BOT approved leasing university land to the FSU Boosters to build Collegetown, where Busch-Transou would do considerable business.
  • Busch-Transou is no longer a Trustee, because she has established an “Official Partnership” between Tri-Eagle Sales and Seminole Athletics.

Mike Harrel (“Seminole Boosters” representative)

  • corporate lobbyist for
    • Verizon (ALEC member). ALEC is Koch funded.
    • U.S. Sugar (Rick Scott/Weatherford/King’s Ranch, etc)
    • Florida Medical Association (who donated to John Thrasher, Rick Scott and Jimmy Patronis campaigns, and who John Thrasher was lobbying for when he incurred his ethics violation)
  • Governor Rick Scott’s friend and frequent golf partner

Gordon Sprague (“Alumni Association” representative)

Brian Swain (“Real Estate Foundation” representative)

  • One of 9 Seminole Boosters that had to abstain from voting (along with Devoe Moore) on the Collegetown project because of their financial interest in the matter.

Ed Morton (“Board of Governors” representative)

  • Rick Scott appointment to the Florida Board of Governors
  • Former President & CEO-Healthcare Network of Southwest Florida
  • Former CEO, CFO, COO of NCH Healthcare System
  • Principal and Managing Director of the ($4.52 Billion) investment firm Wasmer & Schroeder & Co.)
  • Praised Governor Scott’s healthcare practices
  • Served on “Healthcare Round table” with Governor Scott

Monk Bonasorte (“Athletics” representative)

John Thrasher Fact Sheet: Corruption, Racism, Homophobia and Anti-Education Legislation Support

JOHN THRASHER FACT SHEET

1) John Thrasher has supported bills that have cut Florida’s higher education budget: SB 2000 in 2011 which decreased higher education funding by approximately $140 million, and HB 5001 in 2012 which amounted to $300 million in cuts. (SB 2000Thrasher: Y) (HB 5001Thrasher: Y) 

2) The second of the PSAC’s qualifications and characteristics is “high ethical standards, impeccable integrity, sound judgement, and a personal philosophy that is grounded in administrative transparency”. Senator Thrasher’s past actions do not reflect such a record:

  • He was found to have violated two state ethics laws that led to fines and an admonition from the state ethics commission.
    • In 1993, he lobbied for the Florida Medical Association while appearing before the state medical board. State law bans lawmakers from lobbying.
    • In 2001, he was fined for violating ethics laws forbidding former legislators from lobbying lawmakers within two years of leaving office.
  • In 2011, Senator Thrasher signed a secret $124,000 severance package to compensate embattled Florida Republican Party Chairman Jim Greer, who subsequently was imprisoned.
  • In 2012, he introduced a bill (PCB 7170) to allow the secret privatization of prisons and, according to the Associated Press, would have kept “the public in the dark about the costs of outsourcing any government service, not just prisons.”
  • As a legislator who has accepted donations from Koch Industries, he is ill-suited to address the ongoing ethical questions that have surrounded the Koch Foundation’s $1.5 million donation to the FSU Department of Economics.
  • In April 2014, Senator Thrasher supported SB 318, which prevents secret dealings between donors and universities from coming to light. In particular, it would have kept the Koch Foundation’s relationship with FSU hidden from public scrutiny.

3) In 2012, he sponsored an ethics bill (SB 1560) that sought to prohibit educators from running for office, limiting their rights as citizens.

4) He has publicly opposed unions, and in 2011 he introduced SB 830, designed to make collecting union dues substantially more difficult, which specifically targeted two teachers unions by name. In 2010, the Tampa Bay Times quoted him at an education conference saying “There is no way in our state right now that the dagum unions are going to agree with this kind of stuff. So you either bring them to the table and tell them what you’re going to do, or you run over them.” Our next President must be willing to work cooperatively with UFF-FSU and the other campus employee unions.

5) He voted for HB 1205, calling for 10% of each state agency’s employees to be chosen at random every three months and subjected to drug-testing. That bill was declared unconstitutional, but Senator Thrasher’s lack of trust in public university faculty is troubling from someone who aims to lead FSU’s faculty.

6) In 1995, he signed a letter to the Walt Disney Company expressing opposition to what he termed the company’s “anti-family” policy of offering benefits to employees’ same-sex partners, a policy now practiced by two-thirds of Fortune 500 companies, 90 percent of all large employers, and over 140 colleges and universities (including FSU). We are concerned that Senator Thrasher would oppose our current policy. 

7) John Thrasher has consistently supported harsher sentencing policies that feed mass incarceration of African American, Latino and working class youth in the state of Florida. Thrasher accepts political contributions from private prison corporations like CCA and GEO Group. These companies take taxpayer dollars and are repeat human rights violators. Politicians like Thrasher vote to give them more contracts and money.

8) Thrasher’s record of criminalizing African American and Latino communities does not end here. Thrasher supported bringing racist Arizona-style immigration laws to Florida.  His statement on his own site is:  “I am committed to supporting and passing legislation, similar to the Arizona-style immigration reform here in Florida. And, I believe we need to place much more stringent laws on businesses to prevent the hiring and employment of any, and all illegal immigrants.” 

9)  John Thrasher has a history of opposing the interests of African American students in Tallahassee. Earlier this year, Thrasher proposed an amendment at the Florida State Capitol to split the FAMU-FSU Engineering School, treating the historically Black college students at FAMU like second-class citizens.

10) Senator Thrasher is largely responsible for drafting the 2005 “Stand Your Ground” law in Florida which allows citizens to use deadly force without trying to retreat if they feel their lives are in danger.  In the courts this law was used to justify the racist killing of Trayvon Martin.  Thrasher stood against Rick Scott’s proposed changes to the law after the Trayvon Martin shooting and said he didn’t think the change was necessary and voted against the bill.  Standing behind the law and against restrictions he stated: “What we’re saying is we’re putting them in jeopardy even if they’re trying to defend themselves.”

Protest Senator John Thrasher as FSU’s President on Monday 9/15 at 2:30 pm

FSU Progress Coalition encourages you to come, speak up, hold signs, help collect petition signatures and FIGHT the corrupt advancement of Koch funded Senator John Thrasher as Florida State University’s next President during the “Open Forum” question and answer “interviews” taking place on MONDAY SEPTEMBER 15th – NEXT WEEK.

The Student Forum is from 3:00 – 4:15.

We will meet and Rally out front of Turnbull at 2:30.

WHY ARE WE PROTESTING?

The situation at FSU is an emergency! FSU’s President has the ability to authorize or reject private donor contracts like the 2008 corrupt Koch contract with FSU’s Department of Economics that is detailed in today’s article The Koch College’s Takeover Scheme covered by Bill Moyers, Washington Post, Yahoo News, Guardian, Center for Public Integrity and other major media outlets.

In 2013, President Eric Barron and Interim President Garnett Stokes signed a second, arguably more, corrupt contract with the Charles Koch Foundation.   This is a concern for us because five members of the current Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC) have ties with Koch and American Legislative Exchange Council (Koch funded).  The “Koch 5” actually outnumber the faculty or students on the committee.  Board of Trustee’s Chair Allan Bense, who appoints the PSAC members to their position, is also the Chair of Board of Directors for the Koch-funded James Madison Institute.

On May 21st, FSU’s PSAC passed a motion to fast-track Sen. Thrasher as the sole candidate for consideration without so much as an application.  Thrasher has no real academic credentials, is anti-tenure, a two times ethics violator while serving in the Florida House of Representatives, is currently serving as Florida Gov. RIck Scott’s reelection campaign chair and was named ALEC Legislator of the Year in 1998.

This “Thrasher motion” came a short seven days after the passage of Florida HB 115, a piece of legislation supported by Sen. Thrasher that essentially closed all public access to contract negotiations between private donors and Florida public university foundations. Senator Thrasher’s support of HB 115 remained despite hearing student and faculty concerns specifically about Koch contracts and the threat against academic freedom. The House Bill was sponsored by ALEC State Chair Kelli Stargel and Americans for Prosperity affiliated Senator Cary Pigman. These coordinated interests appear to be pursuing influence at the highest administrative levels at FSU.

We encourage you to stand behind these basic DEMANDS

1) Call for a clear and transparent process.

2) Call for a continued restructure of FSU’s Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC).  Demand the Board of Trustee’s recognize that this is an illegitimate process because it is comprised of 64% corporate/political interests and 26% combined student/faculty interests.  Currently, the student/faculty vote is not quantifiably high enough (50% or more) to pass a motion.

3) Call for the singular support of candidates with full academic credentials that meet the basic requirements of the PSAC’s own stated job qualifications.

4) Demand a candidate that is willing to stand behind academic freedom as defined by the AAUP 1940 Statement of Academic Freedom and Tenure and shared governance as defined by the AAUP 1966 Statement of Shared Governance.

5) As a consequence of all the above “calls” our FINAL DEMAND is for the Board of Trustees and Presidential Search Advisory Committee NOT to FORWARD THRASHER for FSU’s next President.

FACULTY SENATE RESOLUTION

We find it important to inform you that FSU’s Faculty Senate met in a “special session” on Wednesday night and passed the following Resolution.

Motion to the Faculty Senate, September 10, 2014

Be it resolved that we, the members of the Florida State University Faculty Senate, call upon the Presidential Search Advisory Committee not to recommend Senator Thrasher as a candidate for President of FSU.  We further call upon the Board of Trustees not to hire Senator Thrasher as the next President of FSU.  Senator Thrasher lacks the stated qualifications required for the position, whereas the other three finalists meet those qualifications. We encourage all faculty members to participate fully in the interview process and to submit comments.

 

CONGRESS OF GRADUATE STUDENTS RESOLUTION

On Monday September 15th FSU’s Congress of Graduate Students (COGS) will meet at 6:30 in Senate Chambers to convene on an agenda that includes very similar language.  We invite you to attend COGS meeting and speak at public comment which usually occurs at the beginning of the meeting.

Again, we encourage you to attend, speak up and ask questions at any and all of the forums.  Here is a link to the PSAC schedule.