- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Recent editorials from Florida newspapers:

Feb. 3

The News-Journal, Daytona Beach, Fla., on legislative session should expand, not contract, sunshine:

The Florida Legislature will meet in one month to kick off the 2014 session, and some hopeful signs have appeared regarding the public’s right to know, as well as bills encouraging the ethical conduct of our public officials.

But a troubling effort is also underway in the Legislature to restrict the public’s right to know the names of candidates for top job positions in public universities and colleges.

House Bill 135 and a companion Senate Bill 728 would exempt information from public records regarding applicants for presidents, provosts, or deans of state universities or Florida public colleges. The bills would also provide exemptions from public-meeting requirements for any meetings held for the purposes of identifying or vetting applicants for presidents, provosts, or deans. The bill would then require the release of names of specified applicants within a certain time frame.

Legislators should stop these bills attempting to restrict the public’s right to know.

Florida has established some of the most open access laws in the 50 states.

But that access sometimes makes people nervous.

By excluding names of candidates in the beginning and middle parts of the executive search at our universities and colleges, the Legislature would begin taking the people and their rights down a slippery slope. Today, it’s candidates for top positions at colleges. If that happens, what’s to stop future legislators from attempting to restrict information about candidates for city or county manager positions, or superintendent positions, or really any taxpayer-paid positions?

The Legislature should avoid this slippery slope. Let’s keep the hiring process for all public positions - including colleges and universities - as open as possible.

The Legislature should focus on protecting public access this session, while improving opportunities for public officials to educate themselves on ethics. It’s what will keep Florida government out of the shadows.




Feb. 3

Tallahassee (Fla.) Democrat on FAMU trustees must unite on Mangum’s contract:

When Florida A&M; University trustees selected Elmira Mangum, a respected Cornell University vice president, as president last month, it helped appease concerns about the rapid-fire interview process.

Observers were pleased that trustees had landed someone with such a strong record in higher-education administration, especially with her reputation and track record in planning and budgeting.

Dr. Mangum is viewed as a no-nonsense, details-oriented person who has a record of being recruited to handle critical administrative duties successfully.

So, with such a high-stakes candidate on the line and an underlying sense of urgency to get Dr. Mangum on board, it was surprising that trustees on Friday halted further review of a contract for her employment. The decision even caught veteran trustee Marjorie Turnbull off guard. She told trustees: “How this board responds in reviewing this contract may give her pause.”

Trustees must have established some guidelines, as did representatives for Dr. Mangum. This is not the time for trustees to enter into negotiations without a united front, and Friday’s meeting suggested anything but that. For instance, there was some question about her proposed salary of $425,000. Former President James Ammons was making $341,250 when he resigned under pressure in July 2012.

It’s important that trustees, if they are serious about Dr. Mangum, understand that hiring a qualified presidential candidate is a high-stakes venture in today’s world of higher education.

Trustees meet again Friday. It’s time to move forward on shaping FAMU’s leadership.




Feb. 4

Gainesville (Fla.) Sun on reasonable rules:

Reasonable individuals, including responsible gun owners, should hope the University of Florida persuades a court to dismiss a lawsuit aiming to allow guns in dorms.

Florida Carry Inc. previously won a court victory allowing guns to be stored in locked cars on state university campuses. Even though UF complied with the decision, the group filed another lawsuit seeking to strike down a ban on guns in university housing and other common-sense rules restricting guns on campus.

Yet not one member of Florida Carry has been affected by UF’s regulations, according to the university’s recent motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In fact, the motion shows that UF expeditiously updated its regulations in response to the court ruling and kept Florida Carry informed of changes.

As recent stories in The Sun have illustrated, UF makes a concerted effort to accommodate gun owners who visit, attend classes or work on campus.

Gun owners can check in their weapons at the UF police department, which stores them in a locked room. More than 70 people have used the service over the past seven years, including 56 students living in dorms.

Some gun owners interviewed for The Sun’s story said they liked storing their guns in a place where they couldn’t be stolen. The only complaint seemed to be that it occasionally took a whole 20 minutes for owners to retrieve guns.

UF has a duty to protect students, employees and campus visitors from harm. There have been at least 10 school shootings in 2014 so far, including a Purdue University student shot to death last month.

University police need to be able to quickly distinguish between legal and responsible gun owners and individuals who pose a threat. UF has a system that appears to be working while respecting the rights of gun owners.

Florida Carry’s lawsuit is a distraction that won’t make anyone safer. It might actually have the reverse effect if it introduces guns into dorms where they could be stolen or end up in the hands of students lacking the training or maturity to use them. We hope UF’s effort to have the lawsuit dismissed is a success.



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