Presidents from nearly 40 Florida universities to gather for 'first-of-its-kind' meeting

Tallahassee Community College's Center for Innovation includes meeting and event spaces on Kleman Plaza in Tallahassee.
Tallahassee Community College's Center for Innovation includes meeting and event spaces on Kleman Plaza in Tallahassee.
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Nearly 40 college and university presidents from across the state of Florida will all gather in one room Wednesday — hosted by Tallahassee Community College — for a meeting behind closed doors.

Presidents from both the Florida College System and the State University System of Florida have been invited to the private meeting to discuss system-wide educational goals and to share their best practices with each other, according to the Florida Department of Education’s spokesperson.

Although the event will be closed to the public, TCC President Jim Murdaugh announced during a Board of Trustees meeting on Nov. 21 that the college’s Center for Innovation on West Pensacola Street will be the host location for the private gathering.

"We are honored to open the doors of the TCC Center for Innovation for this first-of-its-kind meeting hosted by the Florida Commissioner of the Department of Education (Manny Diaz Jr.) and the Chancellor of the State University System (Ray Rodrigues)," Murdaugh said.

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Tallahassee Community College President Jim Murdaugh
Tallahassee Community College President Jim Murdaugh

TCC was chosen to host the meeting at the request of Diaz and Rodrigues, who officially started his role as chancellor in November after serving as a Florida state senator.

“This is the first time ever — well, certainly in my 12 years — that the two systems are going to be together,” Murdaugh told trustees. “The chancellor and commissioner really want to address things to the presidents directly, so this will be a wonderful opportunity to get together and talk.”

Manny Diaz, Jr. is the Florida commissioner of Education.
Manny Diaz, Jr. is the Florida commissioner of Education.

Attempts to get a response from the Florida Department of Education’s spokesperson about why the meeting is not open to the public were unsuccessful.

The Florida Center for Government Accountability’s Executive Director Barbara Petersen, an attorney who has over 25 years of experience, said the meeting is not subject to be held publicly.

The sunshine laws, which are regulations related to transparency and disclosure in government-related meetings, apply to discussions of public business by two or more members of the same institution.

But this would not be the case if Wednesday’s meeting will only consist of each president from the colleges and universities in the Florida systems, along with Diaz and Rodrigues.

“For example, if two members of the board of regents were discussing public business, the sunshine law would apply,” Petersen said in an email to the Tallahassee Democrat. “A meeting of all university presidents would likely not trigger the sunshine law because there aren't two members of the same collegial body.”

Ray Rodrigues is Chancellor of the State University System of Florida.
Ray Rodrigues is Chancellor of the State University System of Florida.

With the 2023 legislative session coming up in March, pre-session committee meetings among the higher education leaders will typically be held this December as well as January and February of next year. This can mean that a potential item on the presidents’ meeting agenda with Diaz and Rodrigues will be discussing their wish list to lawmakers for the upcoming session.

The department met with Rodrigues Monday afternoon to discuss the upcoming meeting and what the expected headcount of attendants will be, according to the Florida College System’s Administrative Services Director Yvette Hargreaves.

With Florida State University and Florida A&M University both being a part of the State University System, FSU President Richard McCullough and FAMU President Larry Robinson have confirmed that they will be attending the meeting.

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The State University System of Florida serves over 400,000 students and consists of 12 institutions:

  • Florida A&M University

  • Florida Atlantic University

  • Florida Gulf Coast University

  • Florida International University

  • Florida Polytechnic University

  • Florida State University

  • New College of Florida

  • University of Central Florida

  • University of Florida

  • University of North Florida

  • University of South Florida

  • University of West Florida

The Florida College System consists of 28 public community and state colleges that collectively serve nearly 650,000 students every year.

Besides TCC, the colleges in the system include North Florida College with President John Grosskopf, Florida State College at Jacksonville with President John Avendano, Santa Fe College with President Paul Broadie II and Miami Dade College with President Madeline Pumariega.

Contact Tarah Jean at or follow her on twitter @tarahjean_.

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This article originally appeared on Tallahassee Democrat: Florida college, university presidents to meet at TCC in private meeting