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Gov. DeSantis signs a higher-ed search exemption as five Florida universities seek new presidents

Five state universities have presidential searches underway.
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Five state universities have presidential searches underway.

Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday signed a bill that will shield from disclosure information about applicants to become presidents of state colleges and universities.

The bill (SB 520) creates a public-records exemption for identifying information about applicants for the leadership posts. Information about finalists will be released near the end of search processes.

The bill passed during the legislative session that ended Monday, with supporters saying it will help attract top-notch candidates to become college and university presidents. They contended that some candidates might be hesitant to apply if their current employers could find out. But opponents of the bill said it goes against Florida’s history of open government and could benefit politically connected candidates.

The bill takes effect immediately and comes as the University of South Florida, the University of North Florida, the University of Florida, Florida International University and Florida Gulf Coast University are in various stages of looking for new presidents.

The House voted 86-26 to approve the measure this month, after the Senate passed it in a 28-11 vote.

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