FAU Trustees Chairman Steps Down

TALLAHASSEE — As Florida Atlantic University prepares to restart a search for a new president, the chairman of the school’s Board of Trustees stepped down from the leadership post-Thursday.

As chairman, Brad Levine had been involved in various parts of a long-stalled presidential search, including aspects that were the focus of an investigation by the inspector general of the state university system’s Board of Governors. During a Jan. 24 meeting, the Board of Governors issued a vote of “no confidence” in Levine.

In announcing that he would step down as chairman, Levine said he wanted to avoid distracting from the revamped search. He will stay on the board as a trustee.

“The university is now poised to select a permanent president. A search that has been arduous and must now commence anew. Unfortunately, I have personally become part of this narrative. The selection of an experienced and visionary leader deserves no such distraction,” Levine said during a trustees meeting.

The trustees also approved extending Interim President Stacy Volnick’s contract through the end of the year, or until the school selects a new leader, and increasing Volnick’s salary by 5 percent to $525,000.

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Volnick has served as interim president since 2022, as the school has sought to find a successor to former President John Kelly. The search was halted in July by university-system Chancellor Ray Rodrigues, who alleged “anomalies” such as a search committee participating in an anonymous survey to rank preferred candidates.

The issue of Volnick’s contract extension came before the Board of Governors during the Jan. 24 meeting. But Rodrigues took issue with the document being essentially a contract summary, and the board ultimately took no action on the extension, sending it back to the FAU trustees.

Board of Governors Chairman Brian Lamb expressed urgency about getting Volnick’s contract renewed.

“My suggestion is, we just fix it. We just fix it, OK? And we fix it fast,” Lamb said.

With Volnick slated to lead the school at least in the near future, the FAU president search is expected to be on hold until the Board of Governors passes a proposed regulation change that, in part, would bar chairs of university trustee boards from also serving as chairs of presidential search committees.

Multiple students who spoke during Thursday’s meeting expressed support for Volnick.

“I truly love this university, and I know that it is in safe hands under (Volnick’s) leadership,” FAU student Emma Solorzano said.

Levine also received supportive remarks from other trustees and members of the public.

Howard Weiner, a longtime benefactor of FAU, praised Levine’s work on the board. Levine was first appointed as a trustee in 2018.

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“Chairperson Brad Levine has served selflessly on the BOT (Board of Trustees). Regrettably, procedural issues arose during the presidential search and contract signing of Dr. Volnick. I measure a person’s actions more in the context of intention than outcome, as no one is perfect,” Weiner said.

Immediately after Levine’s resignation became effective, the FAU board installed trustee Piero Bussani as chairman.

Levine said Bussani “has integrity and honor and will hold this university to the standards which he has set, which are high.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed Bussani to the board in 2021.

“The single focus that we should all have here is to support people who are supporting our students. We are working to educate the next leaders of America, and that is no small task,” Bussani said.

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