FSU president challenges board over new school

Published: Thursday, January 27, 2005 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 26, 2005 at 10:58 p.m.
TALLAHASSEE - Florida State University's president T.K. Wetherell said Wednesday he didn't think a chiropractic school would get a favorable vote from the Board of Governors, even though in e-mails in the fall he dared the board to challenge it.
Wetherell has been publicly reticent about stating whether he supports the proposed chiropractic program, which would be the first at a U.S. public university.
But e-mails he exchanged last fall with a newspaper editor show he authorized a search for a dean and two other positions for the program before the Board of Governors raised questions about it and before FSU's faculty senate was asked to consider it.
The governors, who oversee the state's 11 public universities, are expected to vote today whether to authorize the chiropractic school. It is being opposed by FSU faculty members - including some from its medical school - who consider chiropractic medicine to be quackery and unworthy of a postgraduate program.
"It will be fun (to) watch them (the governors) try and impound money that they don't have or control," Wetherell wrote in an Oct. 6 e-mail to the editorial page editor for the Tallahassee Democrat, Mary Ann Lindley. "I hope (the Board of Governors) tries to stop us."
Wetherell, who was an outspoken Florida House Speaker in 1991 and 1992, also wrote, "I thought it was going to be a boring fall, but this is my kind of stuff."
The e-mails to Lindley were in response to questions raised by E.T. York, the former university chancellor for Florida. York helped push the 2002 constitutional amendment that created the Board of Governors.
The vote on the chiropractic school will be the first serious show of force since the panel began two years ago.
Wetherell suggested that the university would sue if the board blocked the chiropractic college. He suggested Gov. Jeb Bush, who signed the bill authorizing the program, was on the school's side in the debate.
Both Wetherell and former FSU trustees Chairman John Thrasher said this week that a lawsuit is no longer being considered.
"I don't think that on this issue that the school would have any appetite involving itself in litigation," Thrasher said.
Wetherell, however, emphasized that he still thinks the board shouldn't be allowed to decide the fate of the chiropractic college.
"I still think they are exceeding their constitutional authority," he said.
Today's decision could start a lengthy tug-of-war between the Legislature and the Board of Governors over who controls what in the state.
There is already a lawsuit challenging the bill passed by legislators that guaranteed FSU $9 million a year for the chiropractic college. That lawsuit also asks a court to spell out how much control the Board of Governors has over individual universities.
Wetherell said at a Wednesday meeting of the State University President's Association at the University of Florida that he did not believe the chiropractic school will get a favorable vote by the board.

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