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Top regent: UF may get new chief in May

Further, Chancellor Adam Herbert works on a new strategy for continuing the search "in a timely fashion.''

By BARRY KLEIN

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 29, 2000


The chairman of the state Board of Regents said Friday he thinks a new president of the University of Florida can be selected by mid-May, even though four of the six finalists have dropped out.

Regents Chairman Tom Petway did not explain whether his May 17 deadline would preclude reopening the search, or what accounted for the urgency.

Several regents have said they want to consider additional candidates before naming a successor to former President John Lombardi. And more than 275 UF faculty members recently signed a resolution saying they weren't satisfied with anyone on the list.

A regents selection committee was scheduled to interview finalists Monday and Tuesday before further narrowing the field. But after Peggy Meszaros, the Virginia Tech University provost, and Alan Merten, the George Mason University president, withdrew this week, those interviews were canceled.

During a conference call Friday, state university system Chancellor Adam Herbert said he was putting together a strategy for continuing the search that he would unveil on Monday.

"The goal is to select the best president possible for the University of Florida," he said. "But we want to do that in a timely fashion."

Herbert said he has urged the two remaining candidates, Florida Atlantic University President Anthony Catanese and Auburn University President William Muse, to keep their names in.

Herbert and an executive search firm are now expected to quickly contact one or more high-profile administrators who were approached about the job earlier but declined to apply.

A number of regents have complained that several attractive candidates refused to be considered, or dropped out, because of the uncertainty surrounding a proposed reorganization of higher education in Florida. The plan moving through the Legislature would eliminate the regents and replace them with local boards of trustees at each of Florida's 10 public universities.

Herbert and others have said the state's liberal open records laws are another obstacle. Most sitting university presidents, they say, do not want their interest in another job to become public when there is no assurance they will be selected.

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