Student Protests and DeSantis Appointee Surprise Visit: Sept. 14 BOT Recap

FIU Board of Trustees reviews revised brand material | Samuel Larreal, PantherNOW

Samuel Larreal | Contributing Writer

The Board of Trustees faced student criticism on post-tenure review and lackluster funding for overseen sports programs on Thursday, Sept. 14.  

The board unanimously voted to approve a new post-tenure faculty review regulation allowing the administration to assess the performance of tenured professors, possibly threatening their future employment.

YDSA Members protest post-tenure review outside of Tamiami Hall Multipurpose room | Samuel Larreal, PantherNOW

“Post-tenure review leaves the door open for administrators to investigate professors and to remove them from their positions,” said Lauryn Howell, a Junior studying marine biology and a member ofthe YDSA FIU chapter.  “We know this policy will be used unfairly because it has been passed by a far-right legislature and implemented by our Board of  Trustees, many of whom have been hand-picked by Ron DeSantis himself.”

While members of the BOT reviewed new public relations material for the university, Members of the FIU Young Democratic Socialist of America held posters criticizing post-tenure review and Florida state policy outside the windows of the Tamiami Hall multipurpose room where the meeting took place.  

In the last year, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has moved towards tighter control over what happens in Florida public universities, appointing compliant members to public university boards and encouraging legislation to review the performance of tenured professors and remove material that the legislature does not  approve.       

The Board of Trustees also welcomed two new members to the board, one of them a recent addition who was directly assigned to the position by DeSantis.

Rogelio Tovar welcomes Yuffa Popack and Noël Barengo to the FIU Board of Trustees | Samuel Larreal, PantherNOW

On Tuesday, DeSantis assigned Yaffa Popack, Miami Beach real estate investor and donor for DeSantis’ presidential campaign, to the FIU Board of Trustees. Rogelio Tovar, Chair of the FIU Board of Trustees, welcomed Popack, who attended the meeting during the latter half of the meeting.

Tovar extended his welcome to Noël Barengo, the new Faculty senate chair, elected at the last Faculty Senate session this Tuesday. Barengo is an associate professor at the Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, and his research focuses on the control and prevention of diabetes.   

During the meeting, the trustees shared an optimistic picture of FIU. During the last fiscal year, the University has enjoyed a funding surplus and lower-than-expected operational costs, according to Carlos Duart, chair of the Finance and Facilities board committee. 

Despite the optimistic financial picture, there is still tension regarding infrastructure and support of often overseen areas. 

Tovar referred to the recent PantherNOW investigation published in the Miami Herald that found inadequate facilities running and swimming facilities on FIU’s south campus.  

“Every semester that a student comes through here and they don’t have what should be here, it’s an experience that’s missed,” said Tovar addressing the board. “I don’t have the patience for those students missing that experience.” 

During the meeting, trustees also approved around $7 million of additional funding for the construction of the multipurpose chapel project started earlier this year.

The next BOT meeting will be held on Dec. 7.

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