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: “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.