I Don’t Wish to Start Any Rumors, Especially if There Is Any Chance That They May Be Accurate

But rumor has it that Rudy Fichtenbaum, the President of the AAUP, has been nominated to be a candidate for the presidency of Florida State University.

The basis of this rumor is the following letter, which appeared in my mailbox with the mysterious headnote, “WTF,” which I assume is some sort of clandestine code that requires some later-day Enigma Machine in order to be deciphered.

In any case, here is the letter:




Dr. Fichtenbaum:

We are pleased to inform you that you have been nominated for the Florida State University President position!  The Search Committee has asked us to inform you of this nomination.  This is an outstanding higher education leadership opportunity at one of the nation’s truly fine public universities.

In February 2014, President Dr. Eric Barron announced that he was leaving Florida State University to become the President of Penn State University.  The FSU Board of Trustees immediately announced a national search to find a successor capable of continuing the institution’s rise in prominence and stature.

During the past several years, the University has improved its national rankings and has initiated an ambitious $1 billion FSU Foundation “Raise the Torch” fundraising campaign. The Florida legislature passed a bill to designate FSU and the University of Florida as “preeminent universities” and provided $15 million a year for five years to enable FSU and UF to pursue national prominence. Under Barron’s leadership, the University has pursued a “Top 25 public university” strategy and initiated a ‘’Big Ideas” program to rally the campus community. Florida State University has also been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as the most efficiently operated university in the nation.

A detailed “Leadership Statement” that provides encompassing information about the search process, challenges, opportunities, and preferred characteristics can be found on the University’s website at www.fsu.edu.

Please let us know if you would be interested in pursuing this excellent opportunity by sharing a copy of your recent resume and a brief letter of interest. We welcome your candidacy and look forward to hearing from you!  (Please know that this search is being conducted in a manner consistent with the “Sunshine Laws” of Florida and candidate materials will be posted on the University’s ‘President Search’ web page.)

We look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,



R. William Funk


R. William Funk & Associates

100 Highland Park Village, Ste. 200

Dallas, Texas 75205



This nomination might come as a surprise to some, who might have expected any such opportunities to be tendered to someone more obviously suited to such a position—for instance, Howard Bunsis, the Chair of the Collective Bargaining Congress, whose temperament is, I think it is fair to say, more imperturbably presidential (no disrespect to Rudy Fichtenbaum, but what is true is true). Nonetheless, putting aside any expressions of such surprise, it does make sense on a very fundamental level that Rudy Fichtenbaum would receive this nomination: he is, after all, the president of AAUP and the position being filled is that of the president of Florida State University.

Again, I don’t wish to start any rumors, but rumor has it that Florida Gov. Rick Scott is concerned about his re-election and, in order to project a more moderate image, wishes to distance himself from associations with Far-Right fanatics and with the Koch brothers in particular. Rudy Fichtenbaum recently issued a statement in which he expressed grave concerns about Koch-funded faculty positions at Florida State University. So, again, he seems an almost perfect fit for the presidency of that institution.

In fact, although Rudy Fichtenbaum has not solicited this or any other endorsement, I believe that I can offer one that just may seal the deal. Several years ago, the business school at Wright State University was being completely remodeled. Rudy Fichtenbaum’s office window faces west—and, coincidentally, his office is directly across from the president’s and provost’s offices in University Hall. After his office had been repainted, there was a delay in putting up the new blinds. After several days, he complained that the afternoon sun made it impossible for him to see his computer screen, no matter where or how he sat in the office, and thus he could not do any work in his office related to AAUP, locally or nationally. In fact, the effect of the sunlight on a very sunny day was so overwhelming that he was finding it difficult even to speak at any length on the telephone.

When these complaints did not generate any added urgency to install the blinds, he did what needed to be done and covered much of the window with a 4’ x 6’ poster advertising a new edition of some work by Karl Marx. Marx’s face dominated the poster and could be seen clearly from some distance.

Nonetheless, a week passed without anyone seeming to notice the poster. Then suddenly new blinds were being rather urgently installed in the office. I don’t wish to start any rumors, but rumor has it that although members of the Board of Trustees had seen the poster in the office window, they had assumed that it was a picture of Moses–until our university president somehow let it slip that it was actually a picture of Karl Marx, and not one of Moses. Rumor has it that some sort of flap had then ensued, which had led to the blinds being somewhat urgently installed. The whereabouts of the poster remain, however, a deep mystery to this day.

Now some of you may argue that simply because Rudy Fichtenbaum had taped a poster of Karl Marx across his office window, it does not necessarily mean that he is a Marxist. Well, it doesn’t mean that he isn’t a Marxist, either. So, if Florida Gov. Rick Scott is looking for a president at one of his state’s flagship universities who represents a clear alternative to a Koch-influenced educational agenda, but who cannot with absolute certainty be tagged as a Marxist, either, once again, I think that Rudy Fichtenbaum is a splendid fit for this position.

Finally, although I don’t wish to start any rumors, rumor has it that if Rudy Fichtenbaum should accept this new position, there may be a power struggle for the leadership of AAUP, specifically between First Vice-President Hank Reichman and Howard Bunsis. I understand that Howard Bunsis has suggested that, for the good of the association, they should simply arm-wrestle to decide who will lead the association into the future. Hank Reichman, however, has suggested that arm-wrestling might give him an unfair advantage over Bunsis, and he has suggested, instead, that other fairer and more inclusive options be considered in order to set the right sort of tone going forward.

If Reichman should have his way and those options should happen to include sumo wrestling, I think that I may be a very viable “dark-horse” candidate. But I certainly don’t wish to be presumptuous. And I don’t wish to start any rumors, especially if there is any chance that they may be accurate.


4 thoughts on “I Don’t Wish to Start Any Rumors, Especially if There Is Any Chance That They May Be Accurate

  1. I know I’ve put on a few pounds, but I’m no Sumo wrestler!!

    Seriously, however, this letter to Rudy — and it’s real — may suggest how ridiculous it is for universities to rely on these expensive and largely incompetent search firms. (Not that Rudy wouldn’t be a great university president!) And the faculty at Florida State were not amused when in the initial go-round the firm came up with just one name — a well-connected state politician. Last week the Academic Senate there voted “no confidence” in R. William Funk, whose search firm has reportedly “placed presidents at some of the nation’s largest and most prestigious universities.” You can and should read all the gory details here:


    • Hank, I wasn’t implying that you would propose sumo wrestling–only that if it were proposed, I might have a decided advantage over you guys.

      I don’t care how many pounds you may have put on; if I were within fifty pounds of what you weighed when I last saw you, I’d be thinking about how thin I’d gotten.

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