Procedural missteps trigger no confidence vote in FAU board chairman

by | Jan 25, 2024

The State University System of Florida Board of Governors issued a vote of no confidence against Brad Levine, Chair of the FAU Board of Trustees, citing procedural errors and a failed presidential search last year.

The State University System of Florida Board of Governors on Wednesday cast a vote of no confidence against Brad Levine, the Chair of the Florida Atlantic University (FAU) Board of Trustees.

The move follows a series of procedural errors related to the university’s ongoing search for a new president, particularly regarding how the contract extension for interim President Stacy Volnick was handled.

The Board of Governors, which oversees 12 public state universities, noted the absence of Volnick’s complete contract details on the meeting’s agenda, a potential violation of Florida’s open meetings law.

Trustee Alan Levine noted that such materials are required to be available on the FAU website seven days prior to the meeting. He additionally stated that Volnick had never been given a formal contract, which prompted the Board of Governors to postpone confirming her as president.

Governors also pinpointed Levine’s leadership, particularly regarding the previous year’s failed presidential search, as a procedural misstep.

Last July, the State University System 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 Levine, the state university board highlighted instances of transparency breaches during the selection process.

The 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.

In November, 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.”

Craig Mateer, a member of the Board of Governors, called for Levine’s resignation, describing the presidential search process at FAU as disorganized.

“The FAU search is a mess,” said Mateer. “That’s a reflection of us, and it’s a reflection of us. I think Levine should resign or we should find a path to remove him.”

Despite the non-binding nature of the vote, it serves as a statement of the governors’ dissatisfaction with current practices. Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. echoed Mateer’s sentiment, expressing concern over how these issues reflect on the Board of Governors.

“In seeing this process, I share the same concerns as Governor Mateer in that this is now reflecting on the Board of Governors,” said Diaz. “We need to cure that as soon as possible.”

In response, Levine defended his actions, stating his commitment to following recommended procedures and acting in the best interests of FAU. However, some Governors disagreed with the decision to censure Levine, including Eric Silagy, who argued against the censure, suggesting it was a hasty reaction to what could be a minor procedural error.

“I don’t think it’s clear what exactly happened,” said Silagy. “The reality is that if we take this vote, there are huge reverberations through FAU, and it is something that I take very seriously. I do not support doing this right now. This is premature, it is rash, and I want to know a lot more facts before we do anything.

Last November, the FAU Board of Trustees voted to extend 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.


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