Tallahassee students speak out against John Thrasher
Tallahassee, FL – On May 21, at a meeting of the Florida State University Presidential Search Advisory Committee, Tallahassee Dream Defenders spoke out against the nomination of Senator John Thrasher as the new Florida State University (FSU) president. Students from Tallahassee Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), FSU Progress Coalition and Graduate Assistants United joined them.
At the committee meeting a motion passed naming Florida Senator John Thrasher as the sole nominee of the presidential search. The committee’s vote of 15-9 in support of this controversial motion, despite the overwhelming opposition by students and faculty who all voted no, raises several red flags. The process for choosing the nominee is being criticized for its undemocratic nature. In addition, John Thrasher made many statements alluding to wanting the job, but failed to apply like other candidates. Thrasher is being given special treatment and students say it is because he is rich and politically powerful. They also say Thrasher is racist and anti-worker.
As reported previously by Fight Back!, John Thrasher has a history of opposing the interests of African American students in Tallahassee. Earlier this year, Thrasher proposed an amendment at the Florida State Capitol to split the FAMU-FSU engineering school, treating the historically Black college students at FAMU like second-class citizens. However, due to duplication laws, the proposed split faces legal issues. FSU’s Engineering College would be forced to relocate, similar to the displacement of FAMU’s law school, from Tallahassee to Orlando.
As the president of FSU Dream Defenders, Brian Marshall is concerned, “Thrasher has ignored the voices of students. For example, in his support of the engineering school split.”
There is also John Thrasher’s support for harsher sentencing policies that feed mass incarceration of African American, Latino and working class youth in the state of Florida. Thrasher accepts political contributions from private prison corporations like CCA and GEO Group. These companies take taxpayer dollars and are repeat human rights violators. Politicians like Thrasher vote to give them more contracts and money.
Thrasher’s record of criminalizing African American and Latino communities does not end here. Thrasher supported bringing racist Arizona-style immigration laws to Florida. With Florida students recently winning in-state tuition for undocumented students, will FSU be a safe place for the undocumented under Thrasher? Students are raising concerns that Thrasher will use his position as FSU President to perpetuate racist discrimination and national oppression against African Americans and Latinos in Florida.
As well, students and faculty question the motives of the hiring firm, R. William Funk and Associates. This is the same company responsible for the current Purdue University president Mitch Daniels, the reactionary former Governor of Indiana. Funk and Associates is currently under a non-competitive contract, meaning that Funk cannot pursue other work until this is settled. Members of the faculty claimed that William Funk is rushing the process in order to pursue more profitable jobs for other universities.
Students are upset with the lack of transparency in this search process. Dream Defenders and Students for a Democratic Society protested and spoke out during previous meetings of the Presidential Search Committee. In addition, members of FSU faculty are advocating for an academic, not a right-wing politician like Thrasher, to become the next FSU president. However it was not until May 21 that Thrasher was even confirmed as a nominee, while the voices of students and faculty are being completely ignored. Now the faculty union representing 1600 educators opposes the process and wants Funk and Associates replaced.
Jerry Funt, co-president of the FSU Progress Coalition, expressed that the students were prepared to resist John Thrasher. “The search committee, the search firm, the FSU Board of Trustees and John Thrasher all must take note; nothing that happens here will go unnoticed. We've been vocal, we've been consistent and we've been watching this process. Whoever the new president is, they will answer to us first and foremost; the decision as to who the president is should reflect that.”
Regina Joseph, vice-president of FSU Dream Defenders vows that if the Search Committee continues with its nomination, students will march against John Thrasher.