Barney Bishop: FSU faculty criticisms of Thrasher are hypocritical

Recently some FSU professors bought a full-page ad in the Tallahassee Democrat and another professor wrote an op-ed criticizing Sen. John Thrasher, who is a candidate to become FSU’s next president.

I was appalled when I read the advertisement because it seemed like I was reading a political ad. There was a kernel of truth in each allegation about Thrasher before they went off the deep end.

I’ve known Thrasher since he was general counsel to the Florida Medical Association back in the ’80s. There is little truth in the allegations made by the professors.

Before I get to the fallacies in their ad, allow me to point out that politics is an integral part of our education system in Florida.

In fact, a former mayor of Jacksonville, John Delaney, is the president of the University of North Florida.

In the recent past, former Lt. Governor and Education Commissioner Frank Brogan was FAU’s president and FSU itself has had two distinguished politicians serve as president: Sandy D’Alemberte and T.K. Wetherell.

Further back, former Supreme Court Justice Stephen O’Connell and Florida Bar President Marshall Criser both served with distinction at the University of Florida.

So the idea that a politician as university president is anathema to education is poppycock.

The first allegation is that Thrasher doesn’t have the academic credentials to be president — false. He has a Juris Doctor degree, which is a “terminal” degree. You can’t get better than that.

The second is that he doesn’t meet the school’s ethical standards. They cite Florida Commission on Ethics charges against Thrasher. Neither ethics case kept him from being re-elected handily and rising to leadership positions in the Legislature.

The next allegation that he’s not a fundraiser is laughable. They say that education funding has gone down. Every other state in the country had a decline in education spending, what’s the big deal? As a former House Speaker, Thrasher knows the budget process like the back of his hand.

Then we get to the ridiculous allegations that he doesn’t “respect” academic freedom, the First Amendment, human rights, shared governance and scientific inquiry.

What they really mean is that Sen. Thrasher doesn’t support the liberal agenda they’ve been teaching FSU’s students.

Guilty as charged!

These professors are attacking Thrasher for his conservative ideology, which is no different than what they are trying to defend in their liberal ideology — an individual’s First Amendment rights.

So what makes Thrasher wrong and the professors right?

Oh, I know, they believe that liberals are always right and that if you question their beliefs then you are a nonbeliever. Hogwash!

Aren’t they supposed to be teaching their students how to think critically, to explore different opinions, to question the status quo?

Thrasher is a man of integrity and throughout his phenomenal career he continues to be recognized by his peers as a leader, whether it’s as chair of the Clay County School Board, as House Speaker, FGOP chairman, even as FSU board of trustees chair.

When former FSU President Eric Baron left for Penn State, he lamented that one of the things he disliked most was the time and effort he had to devote dealing with the legislative and executive branches of government.

That’s an area Thrasher will excel in – and a skill that would greatly benefit FSU.

Barney Bishop III, one of the most familiar faces within the state business community, is CEO of Barney Bishop Consulting LLC in Tallahassee. Column courtesy of Context Florida.

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