State board wants closer look at university President contracts, Interim Presidents’ staying power
Florida Atlantic University notched some big wins in 2019.

'We've had a lot of turnover of Presidents — almost an inordinate number.'

The Board overseeing Florida’s public universities wants to look deeper into how long interim school leaders remain in power, presidential searches and Presidents’ contracts, Chairman Brian Lamb said.

The Florida Board of Governors held a virtual call where they did not vote on any issues, but Lamb said they plan to explore these issues for upcoming meetings. The Board meets next March 28-29.

Earlier this year, the newly Gov. Ron DeSantis-appointed New College of Florida board of trustees hired Richard Corcoran as the school’s Interim President and gave him a $699,000 salary, an $84,000 housing allowance and a $12,000 auto allowance as part of his 18-month contract.

Board of Governors member José Oliva previously expressed concerns about the state Board’s lack of oversight on Corcoran’s contract.

“I would like greater oversight and participation on how bonuses are structured and thereafter how they are awarded,” Oliva said last month.

Lamb said Oliva, who didn’t attend Thursday’s meeting, wants to look at “some of the key elements that are in presidential contracts and what role the BOG should play as compared to the trustees. Let’s just think about that over the coming weeks.”

Lamb also cautioned about making major changes as some schools are in the middle of searching for Presidents now.

Board of Governors member Steve Scott voiced concerns Thursday that there are no rules in place for how long an interim leader could stay in power, especially as the system has dealt with an unusually high number of Presidents leaving.

“We’ve had a lot of turnover of Presidents — almost an inordinate number,” Scott said. “I believe more than 50% have turned over this year.”

Scott, who lives in Boca, brought up Florida Atlantic University as an example. The school’s chief operating officer, Stacy Volnick, took over as interim President this year while FAU searches for a permanent replacement.

Lamb also acknowledged each university has its own unique situation when a President leaves, which makes it difficult to craft a policy for all the schools.

Sometimes presidential searches can take up to six months, said Board of Governors member Patricia Frost.

“To put in a time limit might be difficult,” Frost said.

Frost also pointed out that the state Board is already involved in the process. A Board of Governors member serves on a school’s search committee and the state Board gets to ask questions before approving an Interim President.

“If there’s a concern, right then and there, that person has just got to answer those questions,” Frost said.

Board of Governors member Eric Silagy argued each university’s trustees leads its own presidential search process. The state Board plays an advisory role and has a final review of the pick to make sure that person is not “flawed,” but otherwise trustees are in charge, he said.

“There’s always been a level of deference recognizing that these universities are responsible for managing their business,” Silagy said.

Gabrielle Russon

Gabrielle Russon is an award-winning journalist based in Orlando. She covered the business of theme parks for the Orlando Sentinel. Her previous newspaper stops include the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Toledo Blade, Kalamazoo Gazette and Elkhart Truth as well as an internship covering the nation’s capital for the Chicago Tribune. For fun, she runs marathons. She gets her training from chasing a toddler around. Contact her at [email protected] or on Twitter @GabrielleRusson .


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