October 2, 2023

New FGCU President's Contract Eyed

TALLAHASSEE — As Florida Gulf Coast University prepares to usher in a new era with President-elect Aysegul Timur, one member of the state university system’s Board of Governors suggested Wednesday that Timur get a “shorter contract” when she steps into the role.

After a more than year-long search for a successor to retiring President Mike Martin, the FGCU Board of Trustees last week voted 7-6 to tap Timur for the job.

Timur, who is vice president and vice provost for strategy and program innovation at FGCU, was the only internal candidate among four finalists for the presidency. FGCU trustees ultimately picked Timur over Henry Mack, a senior chancellor at the state Department of Education.

State Education Commissioner Manny Diaz, Jr. — who serves on the university system’s Board of Governors and is Mack’s boss — made comments Wednesday at a Board of Governors meeting suggesting Timur get a truncated contract.

Diaz described the process that led to Timur’s selection as “a situation where it was so close” and that “seemed to be contentious as to arrive” at the trustees’ decision.

“This looks like a situation where this contract, and I’m not talking about (compensation) amounts, should be looked at in a situation where they take baby steps,” Diaz said. “In other words, it was close, it was a close call. There was clearly, I wouldn’t say confusion, but … it was very tenuous as to making the decision.”

Though Diaz acknowledged Timur’s qualifications for the job and on-campus support for her, he described a potentially short contract as a safer move, at least in the beginning.

“I think in those situations, I would always, probably want to err on the side of caution of a shorter contract, to assure that the candidate (Timur) — who is very well-qualified and obviously liked on campus — but there were several qualified candidates there, with track records. And I think it’s a situation where the (FGCU) Board of Trustees have an opportunity to set something up where they set expectations that allows the new president to meet those expectations going into a longer contract,” Diaz said.

Diaz made the comments shortly after a discussion about a proposal to give the Board of Governors increased oversight of university presidents’ contracts. Such contracts are drawn up by schools’ boards of trustees and require final approval from the Board of Governors.

The proposed change to a Board of Governors regulation, in part, would require that the board conduct a review of “contemplated contract terms” before presidential candidates are invited for on-campus interviews.

The Board of Governors is expected to vote on the proposed regulation during a meeting in June.

During Wednesday’s meeting, Darlene Jordan, a member of the Board of Governors who also served on the FGCU Presidential Search Advisory Committee, addressed the process behind selecting Timur and said, “I look at it differently, a little bit, than you, Manny.”

“Being a close vote doesn’t mean contentiousness. I think that this candidate was vetted very well. I think there were a lot of great candidates, and I think that’s why it ended up being more of a close vote than some of the other votes you might have been watching,” Jordan said.

Jordan, however, said she did not want to address any issues related to Timur’s contract.

FGCU said in a news release last week that contract negotiations had started immediately after Timur’s selection. Timur is expected to take over for Martin on July 1.

As a candidate, Timur drew support from students and faculty, said Emory Cavin, the student member of the FGCU trustees and president of the school’s student government. Cavin told trustees ahead of the vote to select Timur that she would “be the best president for us.”

Timur was visibly emotional after her selection as the school’s fifth president during last week’s meeting.

“What we do, the difference we make in our students and in our community, I don’t have enough words to say how honored I am to lead this great institution,” Timur said.

The search that ultimately yielded Timur’s selection included some controversy late last year. Trustees identified a final candidate in Robert Gregerson, who is president of the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg and a former dean of FGCU’s College of Arts and Sciences.

But the search was reopened, with trustee Edward Morton acknowledging during a Nov. 17 meeting that “a member” of the Board of Governors took issue with an initial slate of finalists.

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