Scott, UF ask Machen to stay at helm


In this Oct. 19, 2012 file photo, University of Florida President Bernie Machen, left, standing next to Prioria Robotics human resources coordinator Ashley Becan, reacts to Governor Rick Scott's remarks. The governor has asked Machen to stay on as UF president.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 3:54 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 8, 2013 at 3:54 p.m.

Consider the retirement party postponed.

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In this Oct. 19, 2012 file photo, University of Florida President Bernie Machen, left, standing next to Prioria Robotics human resources coordinator Ashley Becan, reacts to Governor Rick Scott's remarks. The governor has asked Machen to stay on as UF president.

Erica Brough/The Gainesville Sun

Only days after the nine-year anniversary of Bernie Machen’s inauguration as president of the University of Florida, he agreed to remain in his position at the request of Gov. Rick Scott and UF board of trustees Chairman David Brown.

Machen, UF’s 11th president, announced his retirement last year and gave the university until the end of 2013 to find a replacement.

Officials released a statement Tuesday afternoon addressing the decision and announcing that the search for a new president has been suspended.

“President Machen has earned a reputation for visionary thinking and has a record as a change agent,” Scott said. “I have asked him to continue his service as president, and I look forward to working with him, the Board of Governors and the board of trustees on this effort to realize a new vision for higher education in Florida.”

In the statement, Brown pointed to a longtime goal for the university — to become one of the top 10 schools in the country — as a priority that calls for a “proven leader who can immediately champion this effort.”

In the statement, Machen echoed Brown as he said he would return.

“Making UF a top 10 university has been my highest priority over the course of my tenure at the University of Florida,” he said. “Now we stand at a crossroads where we have the potential to make giant strides. I have been asked to remain in office to lead that effort, and I am pleased to do so.”

The search committee had planned to review applications and recommend finalists to the board of trustees on Friday, with the hope of selecting a new president on Saturday.

In the statement, Brown said he will ask the governance committee of the board of trustees to start contract extension discussions with Machen and then bring it forward to the full board and to the Board of Governors for approval.

“With this opportunity, we recognized the need to take full advantage of our very capable president and felt this is not the time for a lengthy transition of leadership,” Brown said.

Talk of pushing UF into the top 10 has been consistent throughout Machen’s tenure. Provost Joe Glover said there are a number measures that UF will have to emphasize in order to achieve top 10 status.

He specifically pointed to benchmarks outlined in a vetoed bill from the 2012 legislative session that would have given universities meeting 11 of 14 academic and research standards the ability to raise tuition to market rates beyond the 15 percent annual increase limit.

Those standards set benchmarks in graduation rate, average GPA, level of faculty recognition and amount of money spent on research.

“As we undertake a program to build a top 10 university, it’s really a partnership with the state to improve those measures,” Glover said, adding that it will take more money from somewhere to make progress.

Machen appeared in Tallahassee last month with other Florida university presidents as they pledged to not seek tuition increases next year if they received an equivalent amount in performance-based funding from the state.

At the time, Machen noted that the much-needed money for universities, which have faced years of budget cuts, would likely come from one of two places.

“We think the opportunity to provide new resources to the university, whether it be through tuition or state support, is vital to the future of our state,” he said.

While Glover did not speculate as to whether Scott and Machen discussed the resources it would take to push UF into the top 10, he said he felt Machen was excited to work on a plan.

“He and the governor have had a meeting of the minds,” Glover said.

Presidential search committee member Dianna Morgan said she had not expected the announcement, as the committee started this week with a good outlook on declared and potential candidates.

“We all felt really good going into this week that we had a number of very good candidates,” she said. “What we have learned today was that there had been discussions over the last few days regarding Gov. Scott’s vision for higher education and the important place for the University of Florida in that vision.”

According to a list provided by Miramar Beach-based search firm Greenwood/Asher & Associates, the company UF tapped to work on the search, applicants included Wayne State University Provost Ronald Brown and George Mason University School of Management Dean Jorge Haddock, along with Glover.

Morgan said she felt the timing of the decision was right, saying UF might be better served with a president who is already acquainted with the higher education system in Florida.

Cheri Brodeur, chair of the UF Faculty Senate, said in an email Tuesday the move has “only positive ramifications for faculty.”

“In order to reach a new level in the top 10 ranking, UF must be able to attract the very best faculty and retain those that we have,” she said. “Moving up also emphasizes faculty research and teaching, both important at UF.”

Contact Joey Flechas at 338-3166 or joey.flechas@gvillesun.com.

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