New state law will shield names of UNF presidential applicants until finalists are announced

Applicants for presidential positions at Florida colleges and universities will no longer be available to the public, at least not until they’ve been narrowed down to a group of finalists.

The new law signed by the Governor this week comes as UNF is in the middle of a search for a new president.

The search committee says it altered its schedule to comply with the new law.

The first round of interviews will begin on April 11, but we won’t know who is in the running until April 13 when the university announces a list of finalists.

That’s because the new law requires the disclosure of applicants’ names once a list of finalists is established, or 21 days before final interviews are conducted, whichever is earlier.

Critics of the policy, which had failed to cross the finish line in the Legislature for the past six years, have argued shielding applicants’ names would make the process less transparent.

Bill sponsor Sen. Jeff Brandes countered that universities were missing out on qualified candidates because potential applicants feared they could lose their current jobs by applying to colleges in Florida under the previous open records policy.

He also argued that the process was already largely shielded from the public eye through the use of hiring headhunting firms.

“It’s going to allow presidential search committees to do their jobs, which is the number one thing we want them to do. We want them to get a broad group of candidates, to be able to evaluate those candidates based on their experience and what the university needs. And frankly, that is what this bill is going to really allow them to do now. It used to be that the first decision they made was who was the head-hunting firm they were going to hire so that they could shield all of their candidates from these types of conversations,” said Senator Brandes (R-St. Petersburg).

The UNF chapter of the United Faculty of Florida provided us with this statement regarding how the new law will affect the university’s search.

“UNF is concerned because national research shows that secrecy in the search process benefits insider candidates. At UNF, the presidential search timeline has been extended as a direct result of this new law,” said UFF-UNF Vice President Elizabeth Brown.

The faculty union at UNF is urging the university community to weigh in once the finalists are announced.