The Florida Board of Governors is opening a formal investigation into alleged anomalies in the presidential search at Florida Atlantic University, raising suspicions from board members and critics that state officials are angling to install an ally of Republican governor Ron DeSantis.
“The investigation will be thorough, fair, and a determination will not be reached in haste,” Ray Rodrigues, chancellor of the State University System of Florida, wrote to the FAU board in a letter obtained by The Sun Sentinel. “The search process will remain suspended until the conclusion of our investigation. We look forward to your continued cooperation and engagement in this matter.”
The search was suspended last week after three finalists were named. Rodrigues has claimed that the search process included improper questions related to the gender identity of applicants and that a straw poll of finalists by FAU’s Board of Trustees may have violated Florida laws. Board members, however, have defended the search process as aboveboard. One trustee said in an Orlando Sentinel op-ed that he felt “personally outraged and slandered” by Rodrigues.
If selected, Fine would fit a growing trend in Florida of Republican politicians, often with ties to DeSantis, being hired into presidential posts. Recent examples include former U.S. senator Ben Sasse, who was hired as president of the University of Florida last fall; former state GOP lawmaker and DeSantis ally Richard Corcoran, who was hired as interim president of the New College of Florida in the spring; and Fred Hawkins, a state politician and DeSantis ally with no higher education experience who was recently hired at South Florida State College after a failed search.
Rodrigues is also a former Republican state politician and DeSantis ally who was hired last fall as chancellor of the state system in a search that yielded only eight applicants for the position.