Senate-proposed bill would blind public to presidential research at universities

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) — University of Florida professors are concerned about a Senate bill about to pass that would blind the public to information about college presidential candidates.

“Institutions cannot divulge secrets,” said UF United Florida Faculty President Paul Ortiz.

Because the University of Florida needs a president, Senate Bill 520 would block the public from seeing the identifiable information of presidential candidates at universities until finalists are chosen.

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According to President Paul Ortiz, UF’s United Faculty of Florida has concerns.

“We believe the public should have knowledge and the opportunity to participate in such important research,” Ortiz said. “Students come here because they value public education. SB 520 does not honor this rich tradition of public education and that is why we oppose it.

District 24 Sen. Dennis Baxley is in favor of the bill because he says it’s a better process for finding presidential candidates at universities.

“It’s a professional way of looking at top candidates who can be under a lot of pressure if exposed just because they applied,” Baxley said.

Ortiz thinks some lawmakers are making false assumptions about why the process shouldn’t be public.

“If their current employer finds out, they’ll be in trouble, etc, etc,” Ortiz said. “That’s just not true.”

A similar bill is in the house.

“This bill will make it easier for political appointees to advance to presidential positions instead of highly qualified higher education leaders,”

BAXLEY SAYS PEOPLE WILL SEE FINALISTS BEFORE THE DECISION IS MADE

“I appreciate their input that they want to be a part of this and I think we’re still a part of that by being able to have an open eye on all the finalists,” said Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida.

The bill’s third reading and vote is expected Thursday when the Senate reconvenes.

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Norman D. Briggs