Florida State Univ. presidential candidate attacked for conservative values

Florida State Senator John Thrasher (R) is on a short list of candidates to potentially become the new president of Florida State University (FSU), but not if some students have their way.

Progressive student groups and campaigns on FSU’s campus are bashing the candidate based on his political views, ties to conservative organizations, and the Koch Brothers. The FSU Progress Coalition has taken to social media to attack Thrasher for allegedly being a “Koch politician” and a “radical with no appropriate business at Florida State.”

The FSU Progress Coalition also protested Thrasher’s visit to campus Monday, but according to the Tampa Bay Times, the state senator spent most of his time dodging questions from students and faculty about his political beliefs instead of being able to promote his vision for FSU’s future.

Thrasher fielded questions on same-sex partnerships, climate change, and evolution. Subsequently, Thrasher eventually grew tired of the scrutiny by members of the audience and threatened to leave, saying, "[i]f I'm going to get heckled by the front row from people who are laughing and making jokes about [my answers], then I'm not going to stay."

Thrasher, a Jacksonville-resident, said that his political affiliation has no bearing on the decisions he makes as a Florida senator during his interview at FSU; rather it’s the requests of the people who elected him that determine what he supports.

"I represent them, and I'll follow their wishes," the 70-year-old told the crowd.

Thrasher did say he will resign his position as state senator if selected to be FSU’s next president. Thrasher is up for reelection this year, but is expected to beat his Democratic opponent, Kathleen Trued.

Despite the criticism from some of the liberal campus groups, some students are hopeful that Thrasher will be the next leader of the school.

"Senator Thrasher stands apart as the only candidate with a vested interest in FSU regardless of the results of the selection committee,” Jennings Lawton DePriest, a FSU student told Campus Reform. “As a decorated veteran and seasoned statesman, Senator Thrasher has a history of fighting for our country as well as the students of Florida State and will continue to do so if selected as the president of our great university."

Another group, Reset the Search, demands a “restructure” of the Presidential Search Advisory Committee (PSAC) through its own social media campaign.

FSU’s Faculty Senate has also decried Thrasher's candidacy for FSU president. In an editorial published in the Tallahassee Democrat, they cite his lack of a Ph.D. or “academic leadership” as reasons for their concern.

“As the process moves ahead quickly, the search committee would be wise to appreciate the role of faculty members and to pay careful attention to what they say,” the Faculty Senate warned.

Other candidates for FSU's presidency include: Colorado State University System chancellor Michael Martin, Vice President for Research and Economic Development at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Richard Marchase, and former West Virginia University provost Michele Wheatly.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, FSU’s presidential search committee will meet on Monday to discuss the finalists. At least three names will be sent to FSU’s board of trustees with a final decision expected to be announced on Sept. 23.

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