Florida Times-Union Article about New BOT Appointment

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UNF faculty union president objects to governor’s trustee appointment

Posted January 11, 2017 05:19 pm
By  Amanda Williamson

Governor Rick Scott appointed his former chief of staff to University of North Florida’s Board of Trustees at the end of December, but members of the school’s faculty union question that decision.

Adam Hollingsworth, 48, left the governor’s office shortly after Scott’s re-election in 2014 — approximately a year after the Miami Herald-Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau exposed him for lying about earning a public relations degree from the University of Alabama in 1990.

Aside from Hollingsworth’s casual comments referencing his degree, the newspaper said, he also allowed his former employer, CSX Corporation, to issue press releases 1998 and 2002 saying he’d graduated from Alabama. He hadn’t, the Herald reported.

In 2009, Hollingsworth did in fact earn his degree.

That fact, however, causes more than a little bit of unease for John White, president of the United Faculty of Florida, UNF chapter.

“It seems to me someone should be disqualified from overseeing or evaluating the value of the degrees that we grant at UNF if they lied about having one,” White said. “Granted, that was a long time ago, but it seems to me it is an egregious affront to what we stand for at this university.”

UNF faculty want Hollingsworth to recuse himself from serving on the board.

White said he doesn’t expect that to happen — and if it doesn’t, union members will urge the Florida Senate to vote no on Hollingsworth’s confirmation.

Hollingsworth refused to comment about his UNF Board of Trustees goals, and whether his past would impact his performance at the university.

He did say in an e-mail to the Times-Union, “The University of North Florida is a terrific institution. I am grateful to have been appointed to the Board and I look forward to serving to the best of my ability.”

UNF President John Delaney also stands by the appointment. In a Jan. 10 email, he wrote: “[Hollingsworth] attended his first meeting today and was a significant contributor. What is past is past, and he will be a great Board member.”

Hollingsworth came clean in 2013 as newspapers questioned the degree. He called his actions then a failure in judgement.

In a statement issued at the time, he said: “For many years, I publicly stated that I was a graduate of the University of Alabama, however, I did not complete my degree until 2009. I am not proud of this and I deeply apologize for this misrepresentation.”

Hollingsworth continued to deny his sudden departure from CSX to work for Jacksonville Mayor John Peyton had any connection to his inflated resume, the Herald said.

The Herald also reported Hollingsworth allegedly lied on a 2011 application for an appointment to the board of Enterprise Florida, Inc., the state’s public-private economic development agency. A year later, he replaced Steve MacNamara as Scott’s chief of staff.

Comments from the governor’s office at the time indicated Hollingsworth never tried to hide anything in his applications — and when applying for the chief of staff position — did disclose his degree was not official until 2009.

While the degree looms largest in White’s concerns, he said Hollingsworth also appears to have no experience in higher education.

According to the UNF website, the Board of Trustees is responsible for cost-effective policy, implementing and maintaining high-quality education programs consistent with the university’s mission, performance evaluation, and developing a process, meeting state policy, budgeting and education standards.

For White, that process should be independent of the governor’s office. Instead, he sees this as a way for Scott to extend his influence.

“Seems to me to be cronyism,” White said. “The government is increasingly controlled by one person, and that person is no friend to higher education.”

Rumors in 2014 placed Hollingsworth’s future post-Scott at Florida State University. Student groups were angry, White said in an email.

FSU President John Thrasher called Hollingsworth a friend — but said a job in the school’s administration was not available for Hollingsworth at the time.

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