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:
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.
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.