State University System, Ray Rodrigues effectively stops Florida Atlantic University presidential search
Ray Rodrigues hopes to keep city splits to a minimum. Image via Colin Hackley.

A candidate questionnaire asked applicants about their gender identity, a potential EEOC violation.

The Florida Board of Governors effectively suspended Florida Atlantic University’s search for a new president.

The move comes days after a search committee announced three finalists but unexpectedly did not include state Rep. Randy Fine, a political ally of Gov. Ron DeSantis, among them. But BOG officials raised different concerns, including whether applicants were improperly questioned about their gender identity during the search process.

State University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues sent a letter to FAU Board of Trustees Chair Brad Levine raising concerns.

“At least one candidate reported he was requested to complete a questionnaire and answer if his sexual orientation was ‘queer’ and whether he was a ‘male or transgender male,’” Rodrigues states in his letter. “In a separate and required survey, the same candidate was subsequently asked if his gender was ‘male, female or other’ and what his ‘preferred pronouns were.’”

Rodrigues said such questions appear to violate U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission regulations forbidding questions about job applicants’ sex, sexual orientation or gender.

“These inquiries are wholly irrelevant, inappropriate and potentially illegal,” Rodrigues wrote.

According to the letter, consulting firm AGB Search did not inform members of the FAU search committee that such questions would appear on the questionnaire. Rodrigues said that raises further questions about whether information was being withheld from university officials.

But Rodrigues also raised questions about the search process itself. The letter states that in one meeting outside of public view, search committee members held a straw poll on nearly 60 candidates under consideration, with each member listing their top six choices.

“Those rankings were submitted confidentially and directly to the search firm,” Rodrigues wrote.

A new Florida law keeps finalists for college and university president searches confidential until a list of finalists is publicly announced.

But Rodrigues said holding a vote in a meeting held out of the Sunshine was a different matter. Such “shade meetings” typically don’t include votes. Content of meetings eventually becomes public, but to date, no information has been made available about search committee member preferences.

The shielding of information about presidential searches has proven controversial at other institutions.

At the University of Florida, a search committee recommended only one finalist, U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, to the trustees for consideration. Similarly, a South Florida State College committee offered one choice, state Rep. Fred Hawkins, for its new President. In both cases, trustees offered jobs to the lone finalist and the political figures resigned their elected positions and accepted the jobs.

In this case, university trustees earlier this week announced three professional academics as finalists for FAU president. Those include Vice Adm. Sean Buck, U.S. Naval Academy superintendent; Michael Hartline, Florida State University College of Business dean; and Joseph Sartarelli, former University of North Carolina Wilmington chancellor.

According to the lawmaker, Gov. Ron DeSantis had previously recommended that Fine apply for the job. The Governor’s Office later told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel the Palm Bay Republican would be a “good candidate.” It’s unclear if Fine applied for the job, and he did not answer queries earlier this week from Florida Politics on the matter.

Rodrigues said he has spoken about the irregularities in the FAU search with BOG Chair Brian Lamb. Both agree the presidential search should be suspended to allow the BOG to investigate.

“Please convey our deep appreciation to the finalists for their interest in leading FAU and our high degree of respect for their qualifications,” the letter states. “We look forward to your full cooperation as FAU and the Board of Governors have a shared interest in securing a presidential candidate produced from a sound search and selection process.

FAU letter 1
FAU letter 2

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


  • DeSantis is a criminal

    July 7, 2023 at 7:54 pm

    this is extremely discriminatory, the ACLU, and some other organizations in the federal government needs to get involved. Florida has actually call off the rails with its Nazi playbook.

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    • Maritza

      July 8, 2023 at 2:35 pm

      He is going to destroy us with his draconian agenda.

  • Randy is not Fine

    July 7, 2023 at 8:06 pm

    Randy Fine is truly a horrible human being who has screwed over zoos, companies, wants to eliminate communities (ya know, genocide), and even his own synagogue. He has no education experience, is a corrosive human being who nastifies everything he touches.

    This is a ham handed attempt to install him as president in Boca. Just this last week he threatened to burn his synagogue to the ground because they wouldn’t fire someone for being LGBT (illegal).

    There will be a revolt in the public university faculty of this state if this obese pig is allowed anywhere near a campus.

    • My Take

      July 7, 2023 at 9:05 pm

      This is a ham handed attempt to install him [DeSSantis’ buddy] as president in Boca.
      I suspect you are absolutely right.

    • RaysGirl

      July 7, 2023 at 9:15 pm

      This right here. Students and faculty at FAU need to organize and fight back like we did at FGCU.

      • Jen

        July 8, 2023 at 9:50 am

        Yes!! We fight back hard and won! Sending strength and union love in that direction!

    • Charles Shad

      July 8, 2023 at 2:38 pm

      100% correct . I can not think of anyone less qualified to be in charge of a kindergarten much less president of a university . Just more DeSantis trying to pack every government agency , institution , department etc with an extreme right wing zealot .

  • Suze

    July 7, 2023 at 8:51 pm

    I thought only death santis selects the president of the universities these days. The neo nexu has full control

  • My Take

    July 7, 2023 at 9:18 pm

    So the Governor got to submit screening questions.
    I guess that in and of itself is not a problem.
    But most governors would have submitted ones appropriate to the position.
    Not DirtSSantis though.
    You wonder, did he ask explicitly, or simply make his interest known to the search group?

  • Fascism on the march🙁

    July 7, 2023 at 9:49 pm

    So all this comes out only after the stooge didn’t make the cut?

    • Freddy Lopez

      July 9, 2023 at 8:40 pm

      Here we go with the cult’s double standard BS . Spoken like a True Maga

  • Michael K

    July 7, 2023 at 10:31 pm

    Translation: it’s Randy Fine’s job.

    Sunshine is dead, process is a joke. Florida is a hot mess- the new Mississippi.

  • My Take

    July 8, 2023 at 12:05 am

    I wonder by what excuse they could slip DirtSSantis’s buddy in now?

  • PeterH

    July 8, 2023 at 1:57 am

    An investigative reporter needs to get the facts on this deplorable questionnaire!!!

  • My Take

    July 8, 2023 at 2:43 am

    Tiny-D ‘Shorty’ Two-Stroke cannot put up with this slap in the face!
    He gave his choice.
    How dare the committee not abide.
    Do they think they are there for THEIR opinions?

  • Ocean Joe

    July 8, 2023 at 8:56 am

    If the maneuvering leads to Randy Fine, they should change the name of the school from FAU to simply FU, or maybe FFU.

    Whether it’s gerrymandering, voter suppression, climate denialism, currying favor with insurance companies, picking unecessary culture fights, spreading guns everywhere, politicizing our public health agency, eliminating home rule and giving developers a green light, tampering with our school system while handing out vouchers to the wealthy to help empty it, our governor has taken from Florida what once made us a stand out in the south and is remaking us into Alabama, probably because of some weird slight in his childhood.

  • My Take

    July 8, 2023 at 6:00 pm

    Maybe select this way.
    DeSSgustus names three stooges all OK with him.
    Then the committee gets to select based on additional criteria, maybe even based on suitability for the position..

  • My Take

    July 8, 2023 at 11:21 pm

    Well how long now to rig it for Fine?
    The moRon’s arrogance could keep it quite short.

    • Chucky

      July 9, 2023 at 12:01 pm

      Most of the Florida constituency, as well as people on the national stage, give Florida Governor Ron DeSantis very high marks for his participation and for his knowledge of the issues. 😉

      Many thank him and offer kudos for his being so rightfully involved. 🫢

      • My Take

        July 9, 2023 at 1:20 pm

        I doubt many would assume much deliberation or wisdom in this particular choice.

  • My Take

    July 9, 2023 at 2:21 am

    Find Another University used to be the joke.
    It may return.

  • My Take

    July 10, 2023 at 7:27 pm

    We are waiting.
    How long will it be before the fat foul-tempered fascist is “back in the running”?
    Then named?

  • Charles Shad

    July 10, 2023 at 7:39 pm

    That’s entirely up to Fearless Leader DeSantis .

  • My Take

    July 12, 2023 at 8:10 am

    By what magic words will the verminous Fine appear on a new list? Perhaps the only name on the new list. There will have to be some shabby lie to excuse it.

  • My Take

    July 13, 2023 at 9:48 pm

    Dirty DeSScumtis starts to move.

    Sun Sentinel — “State launches full-scale investigation into FAU’s presidential search”

Comments are closed.


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