As representatives for UF’s 4,000 graduate assistants, we received last Monday’s presidential search update with great concern.

Not only have UF administrators failed to adequately include graduate assistant representation at any step of this week’s three-day selection process, they actually seem to have no interest in including graduate assistants in the vetting of UF’s next president at all.

We find it highly suspect, quoting from the committee’s latest report, that “after five months of search committee and subcommittee meetings and outreach to the greater UF community,” Graduate Assistants United has not been contacted once throughout the process.

Given our recent efforts at increasing transparency at UF, such disregard for the largest percentage of the university’s workforce — particularly at the levels of research and teaching — reflects not on the candidates but on the leadership at the helm of the Presidential Search Committee.

However, as United Faculty of Florida representative Paul Ortiz aptly pointed out: “Students, faculty and the broader community should be involved in every step of this process because all of these constituencies will be affected by this decision. The days when university administrations were ivory towers, isolated from their surrounding communities, are long gone.”

Yet current developments beg the question — does an ivory tower still stand in Gainesville?

GAU has demanded greater transparency within the selection process, receiving so far a tepid response from Search Committee officials. Not only does this week’s schedule essentially cram the exposure time that candidates will have with the UF community at the end of a terse and obscure review process, it also confirms what we fear is an encroaching reality — the next UF president is not expected to know about or hear from the university’s graduate assistants.

We ask all candidates on the search committee’s shortlist to right the wrongs created by this whirlwind search and seriously consider the following questions: Will you make the time to meet with members of the graduate assistant community and their legal labor representatives, GAU?

Moreover, as the next president of UF, will you continue to make us pay to work by charging us up to $2,000 annually in fees? Do you find it acceptable that many graduate assistants are forced below the poverty line by having to pay fees back to our employer?

We eagerly look forward to each of the candidates’ answers to these questions. And we sincerely hope GAU and the incoming president are able to work together to help remove the many obstacles graduate assistants have faced over the last few years.   

Mauro J. Caraccioli is the chief steward for Graduate Assistants United.

[A version of this story ran on page 7 on 10/14/2014]