The president of Florida Atlantic University says bad publicity splashed across national headlines was too much.
Next month would have been Saunders’ three-year anniversary as president.
While the university is showcasing her string of accomplishments, there was no way to get around a spate of missteps in recent months.
“There is no doubt the recent controversies have been significant and distracting to all members of the University community,” Saunders said in her resignation letter.
“The issues and the fiercely negative media coverage have forced me to reassess my position as the President of FAU,” Saunders wrote. “I must make choices that are the best for the University, me and my family.”
Here are some of the issues Saunders refers to:
- FAU associate communications professor James Tracy suggested that the Sandy Hook shootings and the Boston bombings were government conspiracies.
- FAU professor Deandre Poole was placed on administrative leave after asking students to stomp on a paper with “Jesus” written on it.
- The FAU football stadium was to be named after the GEO Group, a Boca Raton-based prison operator that donated $6 million to the school for scholarships. Students protested that GEO has a history of human rights violations. GEO withdrew its donation and the stadium deal fell through.
- Saunders was accused of “clipping” a student protester in the GEO case with her car’s side view mirror and leaving the scene. The incident is under investigation by the state attorney.
While Saunders is leaving her post, she’s not leaving the university. The Board of Trustees announced she will return to a faculty position and conduct research into the feasibility of developing a physician’s assistant program at FAU.
Dennis Crudele, FAU’s senior vice president for finance and administration, has been appointed acting president effective immediately.
Trustees expect to have an interim president in place by this fall.
A search committee will be formed to find a permanent replacement.