Intrastate athletic rivalries between public universities (e.g., Michigan-Michigan State) frequently spill over into the silliest sorts of comparisons between institutions, which usually ignore their differing missions. That some politicians embrace such comparisons may offer a small glimpse into the extent of their knowledge and the level of their insight into higher education. Take the case of GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, an alum of the University of Florida. On Monday he told a radio audience, “Look, I don’t have anything against Florida State. I think there has to be a school where people who can’t get into [University of] Florida can go to college.”
Rubio quickly came under fire from FSU alums. Florida State University President John Thrasher fired back: “He’s a nice kid,” said Thrasher, a prominent Republican who served with Rubio in the Florida legislature. “I’m sure he’s frustrated by his low standing in the polls, which I believe could be a reflection of where he got his education.”
Thrasher’s appointment in 2014 spurred considerable opposition among faculty and students. Emails obtained by The Associated Press showed that a consultant hired to help FSU in its presidential search told the head of the search committee that the university was trying to “concoct a competitive process” that would end with Thrasher’s hiring. Those same emails showed Thrasher reached out directly to top FSU officials about the job and that the former campaign manager of Florida governor Rick Scott gave advice about the search.
I find it amusing to observe this sort of petty falling-out among Florida Republicans, but, seriously, we’re supposed to trust such people to “lead” us?