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Man Who Lied About College Degree Appointed to UNF Board of Trustees

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A little more than three years ago, Adam Hollingsworth got caught in a whopper while he was serving as Gov. Rick Scott’s chief of staff. In Dec. 2013, the Miami Herald/Tampa Bay Times’ Capitol bureau revealed that Hollingsworth had lied about earning a public relations degree from the University of Alabama in 1990 when he actually graduated nearly two decades later in 2009. The Herald reported that Hollingsworth originally artificially inflated his resume when he was working for CSX Corporation, with which he was employed from 1995-2000 and again from 2002-2004.

In a written statement to the Times/Herald, Hollingsworth said, “For many years, I publicly stated that I was a graduate of the University of Alabama, however, I did not complete my degree until 2009. I am not proud of this and I deeply apologize for this misrepresentation. I have learned from this failure in judgment and know that, over the last several years, my life and character have and will continue to grow from this.”

Scott, who was then gearing up to run for reelection, stood by Hollingsworth and kept him on staff until after his win the following November, when his office tucked Hollingsworth’s departure into the bottom of a press release announcing the promotion of Melissa Sellers to chief of staff.

Hollingsworth, a Jacksonville native who previously worked for numerous local politicians, including Corrine Brown, Ed Austin and John Peyton, subsequently seemingly dropped out of sight until last month when Scott appointed him to the University of North Florida Board of Trustees. The appointment is subject to approval of the Florida Senate. 

In an email to Folio Weekly, John W. White, president of the United Faculty of Florida, UNF Chapter, objected to Hollingsworth’s appointment and questioned whether someone who had previously been caught lying about their academic credentials was a suitable choice for the board.

“Such a brazen lie about academic credentials should, by default, disqualify Hollingsworth from serving on the university's Board of Trustees,” White wrote. “…Someone who has failed to adhere to the most basic ethical standards regarding his own academic achievement should not be entrusted to oversee the academic programs of and degrees awarded by a major university.

The board is subject to the Code of Ethics of the Education Profession in Florida, which states in part, “The educator values the worth and dignity of every person, the pursuit of truth, devotion to excellence, acquisition of knowledge, and the nurture of democratic citizenship.” [Emphasis added]

The university website states that the board is “responsible for cost-effective policy, implementing and maintaining high-quality education programs consistent with the university’s mission, performance evaluation, and developing a process, meeting state policy, budgeting and education standards.”

In an email, UNF President John Delaney wrote to FW, “Adam is a longtime friend of Jacksonville and of me personally.  He has great work experience, and he will bring deep knowledge to the UNF Board of Trustees.  He is a moral and spiritual person, and I am looking forward to working with him.”

Via email Hollingsworth told FW, "The University of North Florida is a terrific institution and I look forward to serving as a Trustee to the best of my ability."

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