Florida’s University System Has a New Chancellor, and It’s This Republican |


Ray Rodrigues, whose career includes positions at Florida Gulf Coast University and the State Senate, will lead Florida’s 12 public institutions. Will he be a good candidate?

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Ray Rodrigues

Florida’s Board of Governors unanimously selected Ray Rodrigues, a former Republican state senator and director of interagency partnerships at Florida Gulf Coast University, as its new chancellor. He has spent more than a decade in higher education, but has also been a staunch state politician, guiding several key bills under Governor Ron DeSantis that have a profound impact on administrators, faculty and faculty. students.

Rodrigues, 52, gave up his Southwest Florida seat in the state legislature in 2020 in hopes of landing the job. This became available when Marshall Criser III, the son of the former president of the University of Florida, said he would step down as chancellor in July after eight years. He was one of only two finalists for the spot, along with Lori Cromwell, business director of Emory University’s School of Divinity. Rodrigues turned out to be the best choice for the Council.

“You bring a very strong mix of experiences, both personal and professional, including your experience in the private sector, your experience at the university level, your experience with budgets and your experience obviously in the legislature,” Eric said. Silagy, member of the board of directors, in Rodrigues. Wednesday’s announcement.

Besides his six-year political run that included a stint as majority leader, Rodrigues also served as budget manager for the College of Arts and Sciences and community relations at the FGCU. A first-generation student and graduate of Berry College in Georgia, he earned his master’s degree in public administration on the Gulf Coast of Florida. He said he had a simple mission as the new chancellor.

“The goal is for us to provide the highest quality education at the most affordable price, with degrees leading to employment,” Rodrigues said.

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Rodrigues will take over at a pivotal time for higher education in the state, which has seen several new laws — some of which he helped craft — reshape how institutions and their leaders operate. Two that have been passed include one on “intellectual freedom and diversity of views” in which state institutions must allow free speech for everyone on campus (it is being challenged at the federal level), as well as the controversial SB 7044, which requires colleges to change accreditors each cycle. and tenured professors to undergo examinations every five years.

The new law has raised concerns that professors could be expelled if they speak freely, criticize individual leaders or discuss topics such as critical race theory. Faculty organizations also fear they will retire or leave for positions in other states, leaving institutions without some of their best and most experienced instructors.

“This should alarm all Florida faculty and students, as well as anyone considering working or studying in the state,” Irene Mulvey, president of the American Association of University Teachers, said in a statement. after the bill is passed. “Without the protections of tenure, higher education teachers and researchers are subject to pressure and interference from donors, board members, corporations and, of course, politicians, as we saw recently at the University of Florida. The idea that higher education professors in Florida are indoctrinating students is ridiculous.

While there is uncertainty about the future of Florida’s public higher education system, it’s worth noting that the state was recently ranked #1 in the nation by US News and World Report, including best on tuition and fees and second on two-year graduation rates. He was also No. 7 in debt among students. However, when it comes to educational attainment — or preparing students for success beyond college — it only landed at 29th.

With that as a backdrop and with politics likely to play a role in the future, Andrew Gothard, president of the United Faculty of Florida, said he hopes for the best for the state’s 12 public institutions and its many private colleges and universities.

“We’ve had our disagreements with Senator Rodrigues in the past, particularly regarding what makes good policy for Florida’s higher education system, but we hope to find common ground to move forward. before with him as chancellor,” Gothard said. University Affairs. “After all, we should all want the same thing, which is good, strong policies and programs that will continue to push Florida’s higher education system to be the best in the world. We hope to see Chancellor Rodrigues break away from the divisive politics promoted by Governor DeSantis, including recognizing that Florida’s world-class higher education system has earned its status through the commitment and continued efforts of his world-class faculty.

It might be a long time, but Gothard said it’s important to keep politics out of college campuses, and that includes both sides.

“We hope he will use his position to stop the efforts of Governor DeSantis and his supporters to indoctrinate and intimidate Florida higher education students and faculty into expressing and believing only conservative positions. on key issues,” Gothard said. “As far as UFF is concerned, all are welcome in the classrooms of Florida colleges and universities. The diversity of our higher education system – political, social or otherwise – is a key element of its strength. We need a Chancellor who recognizes and promotes these facts, now and in the future. We sincerely hope that Ray Rodrigues can be that kind of chancellor. »

Gothard said he plans to connect with Rodrigues to discuss how they can all work together in the future.

“I will be reaching out to the new chancellor to start a conversation about these issues and in hopes of finding a productive working relationship in the future,” he said. “However, these hopes and efforts in no way undermine UFF’s commitment to fully oppose policies and procedures that will actively harm higher education students, faculty and staff, as well as communities that our campuses support.”


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