A once robust turnout dwindled at the end, but the expansive presidential search advisory committee collaborated and debated for four hours at its initial Nov. 19 meeting in Lee Hall.
The gathering of administrators, students, staff, faculty and alumni kicked off a busy week in the lengthy process to replace outgoing President Frederick Humphries.
The Board of Trustees, with Heidrick & Struggles representatives on hand, met the next morning to set plans for the selection of an interim president.
Whether arguing for a president with a strong previous commitment to FAMU or blasting the efficiency and openness of the search process, committee members submitted the names of potential candidates and voiced concerns about the impact of their input.
Split into five groups, the committee members didn’t want for suggestions concerning who should the next president should be and what qualities that person should possess.
“I commented that I would like to see more female candidates considered for the position,” said Sharon Ames-Dennard, director of the human development center.
Dennard and her fellow staff subcommittee members termed the meeting as productive. On the opposite end of the auditorium, students gathered around SGA vice president Andre Hammel, pitching names for consideration and stressing the need to get unaccredited programs accredited.
Other student concerns included desiring a superior fundraising president over a doctorate holder. Most students expressed a strong desire to keep President Humphries at the university until a successor is found. Hammel further articulated the desire to retain Humphries on a short-term basis.
“Every spring, there’s a third tier, there’s a One Florida, something always comes up,” Hammel said. “We feel President Humphries would better protect FAMU’s interests as opposed to a temporary president.”
Asked about this, trustee Andrew Gillum acknowledged that several students had expressed similar sentiments. Gillum said, “I would love for the president to stay until we can replace him.” Gillum added that he still thought Humphries would leave by his announced Dec. 31 departure date to take care of personal considerations.
The trustee search committee voted to postpone the finalization of the presidential leadership statement until their Dec. 6 meeting, when the full board will be in session. Also moved back was a discussion of current presidential applicants, originally scheduled for the meeting.
Chairman Art Collins had already announced that an interim president would be needed to fill the position after Humphries’ exit. Collins reiterated this position and suggested a revised date for the selection of a new president.
“With the schedule as it exists, we should be able to select a president sometime in January,” Collins said.
A frequent critic of the process, physics professor and faculty union leader Bill Tucker said the current process was being carried out in a sloppy, piecemeal manner.
“The structure is fundamentally flawed in terms of faculty involvement,” Tucker said. “Also, in the leadership statement, the criteria is not prioritized. They’re not apparently interested in meaningful input.”
Responding to this criticism, Collins insisted that the new president would be strong in all areas.
At the search advisory committee meeting, a list of suggested presidential candidates was read at the end of the evening. More prominent suggestions included former Surgeon General David Satcher, Dean Henry Lewis of FAMU’s College of Pharmacy and James Corbin, a former member of the now-defunct Florida Board of Regents.