Marco Rubio has brushed off criticism about missing U.S. Senate votes to run for president and careless use of state GOP credit cards and political committees when he was a Florida legislative leader.
But even in an often overlooked part of Rubio's professional life — academia — public records show a familiar pattern for the presidential contender: basic expectations for the job unmet or ignored, dubious accountability and oversight, and job opportunities that would be highly unlikely for anyone without his political stature.
Rubio took an unadvertised $69, 000 part-time teaching job at Florida International University in Miami as he left the state Legislature due to term limits. Even after he became a U.S. senator and started traveling the country as a national GOP star and prospective presidential candidate, he continued teaching Mondays and Fridays at FIU until April, earning $23, 448 last year in addition to his $174, 000 salary as a U.S. senator.
Students and teaching colleagues raved about Rubio's work in the classroom and the excitement of having a prominent Florida politician, and later a sitting U.S. senator and prospective presidential candidate, teaching them.
"He fully participated, he took his work seriously, and the students responded really well to him and had a great experience, " Nicol Rae, who co-taught a class on legislative politics with Rubio in 2012 and now is dean of Montana State University's College of Letters and Science, told the Tampa Bay Times.
Yet, despite consistently strong student evaluations for Rubio, records obtained by the Times indicate he was expected to do considerably more work than he actually performed.
"The requirements of this position include, but are not limited to the following: prepare and present lectures, develop reading lists, assign and grade homework, prepare, give and grade tests, meet with students, and provide grades to students in accordance with the academic standards of Florida International University, " stated letters signed by Rubio and his supervisors in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2015.
But Rubio never developed reading lists or graded papers or tests, according his colleagues.
"There's a reason FIU asked him to come back year after year. They clearly felt he was providing a great value to the students, " said Rubio adviser Todd Harris, suggesting "some boilerplate language" in Rubio's hiring documents don't adequately describe his job expectations.
"The only people who ever seem to have a problem with any of this are Marco's political opponents and a couple members of the media, " Harris said.
Rubio first began working at FIU in 2009, for the school's urban think tank called the Metropolitan Center.
In addition to co-teaching a course with his longtime friend and pollster, Dario Moreno, documents show he was supposed to develop policy recommendations for an affordable housing summit; arrange a followup conference with local and state leaders; take the lead on Metropolitan Center breakfast forums on the 2008 presidential election and on hurricane mitigation; and develop research projects for the center.
But the Metropolitan Center never did hold a followup affordable housing conference or a breakfast focused on hurricane mitigation. FIU records obtained by the Times make no mention of Rubio's participation in the policy recommendations for the first affordable housing summit, or any research projects developed by Rubio.
Moreno recalled that Rubio did help develop policy recommendations and was involved in at least two breakfast forums, including one on the 2008 presidential election, though he acknowledged the followup housing forum listed in Rubio's job offer letter never occurred.
FIU agreed to pay Rubio $69, 000 for 2009, but as his U.S. Senate campaign against Charlie Crist consumed more of his time, that was reduced to $40, 000.
"I just spoke to the Provost and he is OK with the agreed $40K as long (as) there are clear responsibilities and accountability, " Kenneth Furton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, wrote in an email in late 2009 approving Rubio's reduced pay.
Strong oversight and accountability appears lacking in the FIU records throughout his years there.
After he won his Senate seat, Rubio moved from FIU's Metropolitan Center into a more traditional part-time teaching job.
The class he co-taught met two hours and 40 minutes a week, for instance, but FIU salary forms from 2011 to 2015 usually describe him working 20 hours a week — even as a full-time senator in Washington.
Rubio's supervisor at FIU, John Stack, did not respond to requests for comment, and a Metropolitan Center colleague whom Rubio was supposed to assist with research, Ned Murray, referred an inquiry to FIU's communications office.
"Time in the classroom is only a part of what faculty members do, " FIU spokeswoman Maydel Santana emailed when asked about the plausibility of Rubio doing at least 17 hours of FIU work outside of the classroom while also serving as a senator. "They must stay current and prepare for class, as well as meet with students outside of class time."
She made no further comments.
Nicol Rae, Rubio's co-teacher in 2012, said he had no idea how much time Rubio spent readying for class but he was always well-prepared and attended about 80 or 85 percent of the classes.
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