This audio is auto-generated. Please let us know if you have feedback.

Dive Brief:

  • The chancellor of the State University System of Florida last week suspended a presidential search at one of its public colleges, citing “anomalies” in the process — but some critics say it ended for political reasons. 
  • Florida Atlantic University had winnowed down presidential candidates to three finalists, it announced last week. But absent from the list was Randy Fine, a Republican state politician and favorite of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who reportedly recommended Fine for the job earlier this year. Fine, unlike the those finalists, does not have experience running a higher ed institution.
  • The search being put on pause raised concerns about partisan interference. Another state lawmaker, Democrat Anna Eskamani, tweeted that Florida Atlantic “is being targeted for purely political reasons. It’s gross and an insult to academic freedom and integrity.”

Dive Insight:

DeSantis, a Republican contender for the White House in 2024, has made headlines with his aggressive policy moves to change Florida public higher education. 

He has proposed and signed into law a ban on diversity, equity and inclusion spending, as well as appointed his allies to leadership positions in the system and on campuses. 

Notably, Ray Rodrigues, the new State University System chancellor and former Republican lawmaker, is a DeSantis associate.

Rodrigues wrote in a letter to the Florida Atlantic governing board chair last week that he had issues with the transparency of the presidential search. 

He wrote that a straw poll the search committee conducted during a meeting to rank the qualities of presidential candidates may have violated state sunshine laws. And Rodrigues took issue with candidates being asked questions about their gender identity, preferred pronouns and sexual orientation. 

“These inquiries are wholly irrelevant, inappropriate, and potentially illegal,” Rodrigues wrote. 

He did not state in the letter when the search process would resume. 

The three finalists for the presidential position were Michael Hartline, dean of Florida State University’s business college, Jose Sartarelli, former chancellor of the University of North Carolina Wilmington, and Sean Buck, superintendent of the United States Naval Academy.