To the Board of Trustees: With Grievance, Your Silence Speaks Volumes

Madison Clearman, Contributing Writer

Since April, FGCU’s Presidential Search Committee has been on the lookout for the university’s fifth president, taking over the position of President Micheal Martin. It’s been eight months since then and soon will be nine months come December. So, what’s the holdup?

The process to find a new president is quite enduring, but the timeline of this event has been long overdue in announcing the final candidate for FGCU. With three highly qualified candidates and over eight months of searching, no one was picked and no one remains as a possible candidate. It’s frustrating to hear this news as it is now unclear how this process will play out in the coming weeks for a “new, yet fast-tracked, search.”

President Martin is soon to retire, despite there being no chosen nor confirmed individual to take over and no new candidates for the search. The entire process has been long, and to be fair, it should take time to find a great fit, but the lack of direction and continued postponement of confirming a president has been concerning. It is still unclear how this situation will play out, which has raised my frustrations about why great candidates were discouraged after the postponement of the vote on Nov. 2.

After attending and following the public forums for the candidates, I thought there was a clear candidate that would be a great fit for FGCU’s next president. As time went on and decisions were made, students, like myself, were left in the dark.

It’s difficult to figure out what happened in the room where the trustees discussed and voted, but it’s safe to say “some shady powers that I don’t know about” were a contributing factor. After the Board of Trustees postponed the vote, Dr. Susana Rivera-Mills withdrew from the search on Nov. 7 a day before the midterm election and Dr. Tod A. Laursen withdrew a week later.

Still, with two deciding it was best to withdraw, the Board of Trustees had no comments or thoughts to share with FGCU students and continued on with the meeting that was set to take place on Nov. 17. I nor my classmates knew what was going on and it was frustrating to learn the news of Rivera-Mills and Laursen dropping out with no explanation.

With the meeting on Nov. 17 and one candidate left, it seemed as though Dr. Robert Gregerson would be the fifth president of FGCU, but that did not occur as the board took an entirely different approach. They decided to restart the search and open the applicant pool up to new candidates. 

This meeting was disappointing, to say the least. It made the search look disturbing and suspicious. The Trustees did not have anything to say about who they were looking at as the next president and the ignored email of concern from the Black Faculty and Staff Association citing discrimination against Rivera-Mills in the interview process.

Hearing this email read aloud in a silent room of Trustees and attendees was concerning, but what followed was distasteful and disgusting as not one Trustee said a word on what was said seconds before. I am aware that the Board does not have to respond to public comment, but how could they not respond to an accusation of discrimination against a female Hispanic candidate?

I thought Rivera-Mills was an excellent and highly qualified candidate to serve as the next president, but it feels as though someone or somebodies did not want her as our president. It feels like something got in the way, despite there being a long, thorough search.

After this meeting, the Board agreed upon “reopening recruitment and the screening phase of the search for FGCU’s fifth president” and is to reconvene once again on Dec. 8 to discuss the next steps.

FGCU’s Board of Trustees must do better and reveal to the student body what has been occurring behind the scenes. Why has little been said to address the suspicions of why there is still no one fit to be FGCU’s fifth president after eight months of searching?