Why Not the Best for FSU?

By: Lloyd Brown | Posted: June 10, 2014 3:55 AM
From the Right Coast

The end of the world may be nigh: Uber-liberal politician Sandy D'Alemberte and I agree on something. It is that state Sen. John Thrasher would be a great president for Florida State University.

What D'Alemberte, FSU president-emeritus, realizes is that it is not a liberal/conservative thing.

Nevertheless, opposition to Thrasher's appointment likely will come only from two areas – the liberal media and liberal professors.

Already the effort has begun, with the claim that Thrasher does not have the “bona fides” in education.

Nonsense, of course, but in this case not even a good argument. It also isn't likely to influence the search committee or the university trustees, or the Board of Governors which has the final decision.

Everyone with common sense, which excludes the two groups mentioned, knows that a university president has to be a rainmaker.

One of his main duties is to bring in money and 40 percent of the university's budget comes from the Florida Legislature.

Thrasher has been a mainstay of the Legislature for more than two decades and was speaker of the House in the critical first two years of Gov. Jeb Bush's term, when several important reforms took place including the largest tax relief in the state's history.

As a legislator, Thrasher has a stellar voting record.

But his main value to FSU would be as a go-between, making the case for funding that could help FSU grow and become a top-tier school.

As a high-ranking legislator, he has heard every type of plea for funding and would be well-versed in being on the other side as a supplicant begging for funds from legislators and philanthropists.

He also has been an undergraduate, law student and chairman of the board of trustees at FSU, so he knows the needs of the university and can skip on-the-job training.

I've known Thrasher for more than 25 years and he is rock solid. He is honest, thorough and fair.

Furthermore, he knows what levers to pull. He told me that FSU faculty are paid less than those at other universities and said “that is something we should address.” Faculty unions are all about money and they exist to make university presidents' jobs difficult, but Thrasher, a decorated combat veteran, is not going to roll over for anyone. I'm certain he would treat faculty fairly without kowtowing to their every whim.

There are a number of other applicants and the search committee should do due diligence. But it should also not get caught up in the notion that an expert is someone who lives 50 miles away or be swayed by partisan critics.

There is a lot of hometown talent and when it comes to bona fides Thrasher has them in the original meaning: good faith and honest intentions. 

Lloyd Brown was in the newspaper business nearly 50 years, beginning as a copy boy and retiring as editorial page editor of the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. After retirement he served as a policy analyst for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Comments (4)

8:32AM JUN 12TH 2014
So interesting how FSU has always tried to get a connected politician as president rather than a genuine academic. As noted in column, the obvious goal is to get a bigger piece of state government money. However, like most efforts to live off government subsidies, it is shortsighted and foolish. Top faculty see it as run by a shifty politician, which impacts faculty recruiting and surveys of academic reputation--which generates the impression that FSU is not a serious, top tier, university. Interesting how many of those who lambaste government programs think that begging for more of the state government fisc is the way to run FSU. Thrasher will uphold the tradition of keeping FSU exactly what it is, second tier. Unfortunate.
Robert Woody
10:32AM JUN 10TH 2014
Senator Thrasher have proven himself to be a major leader in the State of Florida. He will bring that same quality of leadership to FSU. I'm sure the search committee will be pleased with the Senator's performance, if he's given the opportunity. Sometimes the right person for the job is closest,and Senator Thrasher is not very far away.
8:17AM JUN 10TH 2014
Yes I suppose Thrasher's multiple ethics violations do make him an exemplar of the Florida Republican Party. Throw in his being a young earth creationist and he has stellar qualifications for becoming FSU"s President and then selling naming rights to the Kochs, who already own FSU's economics department, and turning FSU into a sectarian, well maybe not that sectarian, version of Liberty University.
Barney Bishop III
6:23AM JUN 10TH 2014
Great column!'re exactly right that Thrasher has the skills to be a super FSU President. And interestingly, former FSU Prez and loyal Democrat Sandy D'Alemberte readily agrees and felt so strongly that he nominated Thrasher to be PResident. Faculty worry about his tenure philosophy, but as PResident expect Thrahser to support more of the status quo and that in itself would be a victory for the faculty and a strong signal to the Florida legislature!

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