FAU Board extends Stacy Volnick as interim president amid ongoing investigation

by | Nov 15, 2023

  • Stacy Volnick’s term as interim president of Florida Atlantic University (FAU) is extended until the end of 2024 or until a permanent president is appointed, following a Board of Trustees vote on Tuesday.
  • Volnick has a long history at FAU, having joined in 1991 and serving in various administrative roles, including Vice President for Administrative Affairs and Chief Operating Officer.
  • The State University System of Florida suspended FAU’s presidential search in July due to transparency concerns, including allegations of breaches in the selection process and violations of state sunshine laws by the search committee. 

The Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Board of Trustees voted on Tuesday to extend interim president Stacy Volnick’s term until the end of 2024, or until a permanent president is appointed.

Volnick has worked as part of FAU’s administrative staff since 1991 and became Vice president for Administrative Affairs and Chief Administrative Officer in 2013. Before she was appointed as interim president in October 2022, she served as the school’s Chief Operating Officer.

“I am honored to be recognized by the board for my performance,” said Volnick. “I look forward to working with the trustees, faculty, staff, and students to push Florida Atlantic’s continued progress to new heights.”

When FAU initially appointed Volnick, its officials commented that Volnick did not plan to apply for the role of permanent president. However, it is currently unclear if this intention still holds, especially in light of the university’s ongoing investigation conducted by the State University System. Attempts to clarify this with the university did not materialize in any new information.

In July, the State University System of Florida suspended FAU’s presidential search due to concerns over self-described anomalies throughout the process. In a letter composed by University System Chancellor Ray Rodrigues to FAU Board of Trustees Chairman Brad Levine, the state university board highlighted instances of transparency breaches during the selection process. These violations allegedly involved inquiries regarding a candidate’s sexual orientation, gender, and preferred pronouns, potentially contravening regulations set forth by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

This month, state Attorney General Ashley Moody determined that the committee’s consultation and subsequent private communication with a search firm violated state sunshine laws due to a lack of public transparency. The committee allegedly narrowed a list of 60 potential presidential candidates to 20 by covertly informing the firm of their preferences, breaching statutes ordering that meetings and records must be fully open to the public.

“The state’s Sunshine Law doesn’t allow search committee members to use a search firm to anonymously rank candidates,” wrote Moody in her order. “It appears that the very purpose of the process is to inject secrecy into the deliberative process.”

While certain discussions related to university presidential searches were made confidential to the public as per a 2022 law, they still must be held “on the record” in the presence of other committee members. In her filing, Moody brought attention to exemptions for certain committee meetings but clarified that they only apply when the committee meets all exemption criteria, such as recording the entirety of the meeting.

“With regard to the open meetings requirements of the Sunshine Law, the statute provides that any portion of a meeting held for identifying or vetting applicants for the position of president of such university or institution is exempt from the requirement to hold a meeting open to the public,” continued Moody. “But the statute specifically requires recording any closed portion of any such meeting and provides an exemption from public records disclosure requirements for the recording.”

During the State University System Board of Governors meeting this month, Rodrigues issued an update on FAU’s investigation, but offered no new information and commented that the process is merely ongoing.

“The search remains suspended,” said Rodrigues on Nov. 8. “Our office has continued its investigation. We will have a more comprehensive update on this topic in the near future.”


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