Randy Fine out as FAU presidential candidate, DeSantis says

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Florida Atlantic University’s next president will not be conservative firebrand Randy Fine, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday.

DeSantis had supported Fine, a state representative from Palm Bay, for the FAU job in March, and Fine endorsed DeSantis for his presidential bid. But this week, it was clear their alliance had been shattered, with Fine announcing he was flipping his support to former President Trump.

“He was up for a presidency of FAU. He didn’t get it. Now he’s running for Senate. He’s trying to ingratiate himself. Totally ridiculous,” DeSantis said in New Hampshire, according to Politico.

An FAU presidential search committee didn’t pick Fine as a finalist July 5, but two days later, the state Board of Governors suspended the search due to alleged “anomalies,” raising questions of whether the university might have to conduct the search over again.

Fine had previously been a staunch supporter of DeSantis, but he said in a Washington Times opinion piece Monday that he was disappointed by DeSantis’ response to the Hamas attack on Israel, as well as other issues affecting Jews. Fine is the only Jewish Republican member of the state Legislature. Trump, he argued, “never let us down.”

Although it was widely known that Fine applied for the FAU job, only the names of finalists are made public. While Fine confirmed in March that the DeSantis administration had approached him about applying for the job, he never confirmed he actually did apply.

“Did someone disclose that I had applied? I never have,” Fine said by text after being contacted by the South Florida Sun Sentinel on Tuesday.

When told that DeSantis confirmed his candidacy, Fine responded, “Interesting. I have never confirmed I applied and am not now. State law requires applicants’ names to be kept confidential.”

Related Articles

His candidacy was noted in the conservative blog Florida Jolt by Tracy Caruso, a Fine ally and wife of State Rep. Mike Caruso, a West Palm Beach Republican.

Caruso suggested Fine’s concerns about a diversity survey by the search firm that asked about sexual orientation and gender identity was one factor that prompted the state investigation.

“By now, most know that Governor DeSantis’s recommended candidate, Representative Randy Fine R-Brevard County, was asked if he was a biological or transgendered male, which anyone outside of those being questioned knows is an outrageous and unacceptable question to ask any job candidate,” she wrote on Sept. 23.

Another issue cited by the Board of Governors was the search committee using a “straw poll” to narrow candidates. The board has asked Attorney General Ashley Moody for her opinion on whether the poll complies with state law, and is awaiting a response.

The inspector general for the Board of Governors is finishing an investigation and is expected to share results on Nov. 9, according to the board’s agenda.

If the Board of Governors allows FAU to continue its search it would likely interview its three finalists. They are: Vice Admiral Sean Buck, who recently retired as superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis; Michael Hartline, dean of the College of Business at Florida State University; and Jose Sartarelli, former chancellor of the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

No finalist has dropped out due to the delays, said Brad Levine, chairman of the FAU Board of Trustees.

“They’re still in the running and the university is looking forward o proceeding with the presidential search and selecting our next president,” Levine said.

The Faculty Senate asked the Board of Trustees last month to consider another option — giving interim President Stacy Volnick a multi-year contract. Members of the group expressed concern that the search process would drag on and finalists might drop out.

“The motion at Faculty Senate last month was driven by a need for stability in leadership and a belief that Dr. Volnick has served us well during her time as our interim president,” Kim Dunn, an associate professor of accounting and president of the Faculty Senate, told the Sun Sentinel. “Today’s announcements have not changed either of those factors.”

The Board of Trustees has not discussed whether they would consider Volnick instead of the applicants. She was not allowed to apply for the permanent job as a condition of being named interim president.

Bill Trapani, an FAU associate professor of communications, was vocal in his opposition to Fine. He said faculty are now “cautiously optimistic” that the university can hire a president they can support.

Trapani and others have voiced concerns about Fine’s legislative efforts, deeming it right-wing, “anti-woke” and anti-LGBTQ. “His reputation and record does not instill confidence that we would have a tempered and well-guided leader,” Trapani said.

He said his latest feud with DeSantis should be a warning sign of infusing politics into higher education.

“There are reasons we place an importance on academic freedom and freedom from political intervention,” Trapani said. “Political whims change daily.”