New UF president could be chosen within weeks
Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 5:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, November 15, 2012 at 5:18 p.m.
The University of Florida's fall semester is quickly drawing to a close, but the next university president might be named before it ends.
Presidential search committee member Dianna Morgan said it's possible that finalists would be brought to campus and the next president chosen before classes end Dec. 5.
"I think it's realistic that we could bring candidates to campus within the next few weeks," she said Thursday at a meeting of The Gainesville Sun's editorial board.
UF President Bernie Machen is retiring by the end of next year, leaving the exact date to be determined by the naming of his successor. If the selection isn't made by the last day of fall classes next month, faculty have been told that the decision would be delayed until at least January.
"We're not going to force it if we're not all feeling really comfortable about those finalists," Morgan said. "We're going to wait it out if we have to, but … we're moving at a deliberate pace here and feel that staying focused and moving quickly is important."
UF has at least 19 applicants for the job so far, but the group of applicants lacks the major research university presidents sought for the position. Those kind of candidates are interested but waiting to apply due to the state's Sunshine Law making applications public, said Morgan, a former UF trustee who was a longtime Walt Disney World executive.
She said interested candidates include presidents in the Association of American Universities, a group of leading research universities that counts UF as a member.
"These are individuals who have had pretty successful careers leading major research universities and who are just excited about doing the same things in a new environment and maybe a bigger landscape," she said.
She expects a turnaround of just a few days between the interviews of finalists and the hiring of the next president, mirroring the process in which Machen was selected.
"We're very mindful that (candidates) don't want to see this stretched out longer than necessary," she said. "We're very mindful of the number of searches that are going on right now … For all of those reasons, we think it's going to be to our advantage to bring it home sooner rather than later."
More than 20 institutions are searching for presidents, about 10 of which are expected to be competing with UF for potential candidates.
When Machen was hired, 11 finalists were brought to Gainesville for a three-day flurry of interviews that ended with his selection. Six of those finalists were publicly announced just two days before the interviews.
UF has only had white men as presidents in its history, but Morgan said women and members of minority groups are in the mix of interested candidates.
"It's a very diverse pool," she said.
Morgan is part of a 23-member search committee that includes UF trustees, administrators and faculty, with the full board of trustees voting on the final pick. The Miramar Beach-based search firm Greenwood/Asher & Associates is working on the search, gauging interest of possible candidates.
The selection of a new president comes as Gov. Rick Scott is pushing universities to keep tuition low even after years of state funding cuts. Morgan said that Scott hasn't exerted political pressure on UF's presidential search process.
"I think we all went into this assuming that he would," she said.
Contact Nathan Crabbe at 338-3176 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.thecampussun.com for more stories on the University of Florida.