TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Professors, deans and top officials at several universities are now vying to become the next president at Florida State University.
FSU attracted 39 candidates for its top job by a Tuesday deadline, despite a topsy-turvy search that has come under scrutiny because of the front-runner status of State Sen. John Thrasher.
Among those jumping into the contest were FSU interim president Garnett Stokes, University of South Carolina provost Michael Amiridis and Michael Martin, chancellor of the Colorado State University System.
Deans and professors from several universities have also applied for the position that became vacant when Eric Barron left to take the top spot at Penn State University.
They are joining a field that includes Thrasher, who is a former House speaker and current chairman of the re-election campaign of Gov. Rick Scott. Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston and a state legislator from Tallahassee have also applied for the position.
The search for a new president has come under fire because the presidential search committee initially voted to interview Thrasher before hearing from other candidates. The argument was that Thrasher's candidacy was dissuading other worthwhile candidates from applying.
But the decision to designate Thrasher, a St. Augustine Republican, as the main candidate created a backlash among some faculty and students. University officials changed course and decided instead to take applications until September. The search committee is scheduled to meet this Friday where they are expected to pick a set of finalists who will be interviewed by the FSU board.
Thrasher is an FSU alumnus but he lacks academic credentials. Supporters of Thrasher have contended he would be able to help the university seek additional financial support from the Florida Legislature.
Some FSU faculty, however, pushed for Stokes to apply. She had been provost under Barron and in her letter to the FSU search committee said that the "strong encouragement" she had received from people inside and outside the university convinced her to apply for the job.