- Associated Press - Friday, September 5, 2014

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - Florida State University is edging closer to picking a new president, but the bumpy search for a new leader continues to be contentious.

A search committee on Friday picked 11 semi-finalists for the job, but not before the meeting was abruptly suspended for nearly an hour after students started chanting in protest over the makeup of the panel.

Then later in the day came a divided vote over whether to keep powerful Republican politician John Thrasher on the list of potential candidates.

Students and faculty on the committee wanted Thrasher removed but the other committee members - several of whom are lobbyists or politically-connected - voted the idea down.

The 11 semi-finalists now include Thrasher, a state senator who was once House speaker and is currently chairman of Gov. Rick Scott’s re-election campaign. Thrasher is an FSU alumnus who helped win the university a medical school while in the Legislature.

The other semi-finalists include interim FSU President Garnett Stokes, University of South Carolina Provost Michael Amiridis and Colorado State University System Chancellor Michael Martin. The search committee plans to interview candidates next week.

One of the notable candidates left off the list was Florida Supreme Court Justice Ricky Polston.

Students who protested at the meeting were angry that students and faculty at FSU don’t have a greater presence on the search committee. The committee is expected to send the names of at least three finalists to the FSU board of trustees. FSU is expected to pick a president by the end of September.

Thrasher has been the early front-runner for the job. Initially FSU planned to interview him ahead of all candidates but that created a backlash and ultimately led to the search being delayed.

FSU professor Eric Walker pushed on Friday to remove Thrasher from consideration, saying he was fearful his continued candidacy would prompt other serious candidates to drop out. He said he has asked Thrasher to withdraw but he told him no. But that other search committee members lauded Thrasher and his work on behalf of the school.

FSU has been without a president since Eric Barron stepped down to take the top post at Penn State University.

On the web: https://presidentialsearch.fsu.edu/

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