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Three Candidates to be Interviewed for FSU Top Job

A committee looking for the next Florida State President is asking three candidates to come to campus for interviews.

But many members also made one thing clear – they're not that impressed so far with the list of potential replacements for retiring President T.K. Wetherell.

FSU Trustees Chair Jim Smith said if the search committee can't find an all-star candidate to bring back to the trustees, the trustees won't even consider him or her for the job.

“We're looking for someone who can hit a home run for Florida State University,” Smith said.

By Tuesday's meeting, 26 applicants had applied and the committee met for three hours trying to narrow down the list of applicants, even though some members said they did not feel there was a potential president on the list.

“I found none of whom I would vote yes,” said committee member Ken Van Assenderp during the meeting.

The search for a new president began this summer after Wetherell announced his retirement at a June meeting of the university's trustees. Wetherell's contract doesn't expire until 2011, but he has told the trustees he would like to retire as soon as possible.

The trustees have said they want a strong academic candidate, but also someone with a lot of fundraising experience.

“If they can't raise $1 billion in five or six years, then we're not hiring them as president of Florida State University,” Smith said.

The committee voted to bring in Kevin Bedell, vice provost for research at Boston College, Eric Barron, director of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, and Steven Leath, vice president for research at the University of North Carolina, for interviews.

The university had contracted with John Hicks from Academic Search, a consulting firm that served as a head hunter for the position. Hicks said there were several people who did not want to apply because of the state's Sunshine laws. When people apply for a position at the state university, their names are immediately made public.

The cost of bringing in a candidate for an interview runs anywhere from $5,000 to $8,000 and involves a full day beyond the meeting with the search committee. The candidate meets with students, deans, vice presidents and the provost, and makes 10 to 15 minute presentations to all of the groups.

Former Supreme Court Justice Raoul Cantero said he did not want to drag someone through a rigorous process when there was no intention of hiring him, which could send a bad message in the national search process.

However, he said there are plenty of cases where universities have found excellent presidents from unknown entities in academia. Wetherell was the president of Tallahassee Community College before his tenure at FSU, and is widely respected as the president of the university.

“My personal feeling is the people you most need are right under your nose and you don't even know it,” Cantero said.

Hicks is trying to get the three candidates into Tallahassee for interviews by the end of the week. However, the interview process would not necessarily end with the three candidates. The committee is still accepting interested applicants.

At the end of the interview process, the committee will recommend names to the trustees, who would make the ultimate decision. But, the committee also does not have to recommend anyone and can start from scratch in January on a new search.

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