West Florida Faculty Senate Opposes Lawmaker as Potential President

September 12, 2016

The University of West Florida Faculty Senate on Friday voted, 12 to 5, to oppose the presidential bid of a state senator with no higher education background who helped design a controversial performance-based funding system.

The Faculty Senate “is resolved that statements made by candidate Don Gaetz in his initial interview, combined with his past political and professional positions and actions, are incompatible with the academic mission and educational initiatives” of the university, reads the faculty resolution. It urges the presidential search committee and Board of Trustees to choose among the remaining pool of “highly qualified finalists.”

Daniel Pace, a professor of finance and president of the university’s union affiliated with the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association, called performance measures “so flawed,” Politico reported. “They show a fundamental lack of understanding of how a university functions and what the role of a university is, particularly for a regional comprehensive university like [West Florida]. There is no place for a regional comprehensive university under these performance metrics.”

All finalists beyond Gaetz, including Martha Saunders, the university's provost, have significant higher education experience. Gaetz told Politico, “Everyone has a right to express themselves, and I certainly respect the members of the faculty who organized this effort. It is their right to express themselves.” The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Trustees are expected to name a new president on Thursday.

Florida State University in 2014 hired John Thrasher, a Republican state lawmaker with no higher education experience, as president, despite a similar plea by faculty members to their Board of Trustees not to do so.

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