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'Death of Transparency': Miami Dade Faculty Take Aim At Presidential Search With Coffin, Headstones

Jessica Bakeman
During a protest on the Kendall Campus, Miami Dade College education professor Jasmine Diaz, center, holds an umbrella to symbolize the shade of what she and her colleagues argue has been a lack of transparency in the presidential search.

Dozens of Miami Dade College faculty members marched along Killian Parkway outside the Kendall Campus Thursday morning, some carrying a wooden coffin and others holding signs shaped like headstones.

“Rest in peace: Here lies the integrity of the presidential search,” education professor Jasmine Diaz said, reading her sign.

She and other members of the college faculty union argue that the search to replace Eduardo Padrón as president of the massive institution has been secretive and wrong-headed.

They oppose the college board of trustees’ decision to lower the standards for applicants' academic credentials — for example, a doctorate or other terminal degree is no longer required — and question whether they did so to accommodate specific, pre-selected candidates.

They also worry that a bill aiming to exempt information about college presidential searches from the state Sunshine Law could be used to plunge the remainder of the search into darkness. The measure has passed the Florida House and could be approved before the scheduled mid-March end of the legislative session.

Lawrence Meyer, a technology professor who acted as a pallbearer for the fake coffin, said the prop symbolized “the death of transparency."

“It’s my college. These are my people. These are my friends. These are the students that I’ve educated for the last 15 years,” Meyer said. “They need the best possible leader, and they need it to be an open and clear search.”

Miriam Frances Abety has also been teaching for 15 years. Her field is psychology.

She said the board of trustees has “bastardized” the search.

“They come, and they go,” she said. “They have political positions. But the faculty are here.”

A spokesman for the college said in an email: Faculty members “have every right to raise their voices regarding any issue. It was a beautiful day and an appropriate venue.”

He added: Information about the search is posted on the college’s website.

Miami Dade College has been searching for its next president about a year. Under the original timeline, the board of trustees was scheduled to choose Padrón’s successor last summer. But new board members appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis said they were unhappy with the final pool of candidates and decided to scrap the original search and start again. The college spent nearly $170,000 the first time around.

The search committee is next scheduled to meet March 26, when the group expects to begin narrowing down the applicant pool. The final vote is planned for mid-May.

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Jessica Bakeman is Director of Enterprise Journalism at WLRN News, and she is the former senior news editor and education reporter. Her 2021 project "Class of COVID-19" won a national Edward R. Murrow Award.
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