University Press Special Investigation: Florida Atlantic Trustees are Financially Skeevy, Scarily Powerful

Earlier this week, The University Press at Florida Atlantic University unleashed a special issue that oozes investigative awesomeness and reveals some unsavory, ironic truths about those in power at the Palm Beach County public school.

The issue’s aim: providing the down-low on the FAU Board of Trustees, the 13-member body that holds ultimate sway over the university’s infrastructure, finances, and future.  It is an über-newsworthy pursuit, especially impressive given that its principal focus is a set of individuals typically untouched by– and unknown to– the student press.

Quick, name your college or university president.  Picture his or her face.  Nailed both?  Most likely.  Now, name your school’s trustees.  Pick even one out of a line-up.  Not so much?  Still thinking?  Cue awkward silence, floor-staring.  Exactly.  Yet, in big picture terms, those men and women are more powerful than your president, provost, deans, and tenured faculty, combined.

UP staffer Karla Bowsher first began “blind backgrounding” the board last spring, amid a sleepless night spurred by “talk of another eight-figure budget cut and rumors of another 15 percent tuition hike” at FAU.  Over the next year, she unraveled “so many bankruptcy filings, foreclosures, liens, and lawsuits in our trustees’ pasts that I needed another researcher [James Shackelford] to get through it all– and an entire issue of the newspaper to cover it all.”

She also found real and perceived cronyism in the board’s selection, stretching directly to the office of the governor.  She pointed out the board’s lack of diversity.  And she came across actual lies within some members’ “applications or questionnaires they filled out– and submitted to state agencies– when they applied to join the board.”  In this regard, the BOT fully earns the ironic nickname bestowed upon it in the issue: “The Trusty Bunch.

Bowsher is a graduating senior and freelance journalist who is deservedly earning a rep as a docs, databases, and records specialist.  This report is top-notch for its reliance on inscrutable forms of evidence, a no-stones-left-unturned investigative mentality, a fearlessness at challenging (self-) important people who almost never receive this type of scrutiny, and an aggressively objective final presentation that requires no sensationalism or speculation.  It simply lays out the truth.

Along with her work on the UP, Karla Bowsher has written for South Florida’s Sun-Sentinel, The Miami Herald, and The Broward Bulldog.  Photo: Charles Pratt / University Press

Bowsher’s initial guiding question: Who is really running our university?  If I was an FAU student, my question after checking out the issue: Is this who should be running our university?

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