“Fiscal integrity and accountability will be our top priority,” said Florida A&M University president-elect James Ammons at a news conference at Thursday to address the areas of noncompliance issued by the Southern Association of Colleges and Universities’ Commission on Colleges.
FAMU stakeholders representing the Board of Trustees, National Alumni Association, faculty and administration along with student-body vice president James Bland stood in support of Ammons as he gave his speech on the intended progress of the university.
“Over the next week we will develop an integrated action plan that will satisfy our stakeholders,” Ammons said in reference to tackling the 10 issues outlined by SACS. He plans to submit this strategy to the FAMU BOT meeting on July 11.
“Within the next 30 days of my [official arrival] we will discern the root of this problem. Accountability is the foremost cornerstone in rebuilding our integrity. We must hold responsible parties accountable (by) implementing the corrective action.”
Hiring qualified administration, training incumbents and implementing effective communication are also on Ammons list of solutions.
Where others may have faltered, he is confident in his ability to lead and unite faculty. “I have an administration style that is a part of raising the morale of the institution. I want to get to know as many people on this university as possible.”
Concerns were raised that while he was provost, some of the present issues existed; implicating that Ammons was incapable of solving the problem. “It doesn’t matter whether the issues happened in 1887 or 1997-come Monday these are my issues and I will solve them. We are not looking back.” Ammons said.
“This is not the first challenge that we have faced in the history of our university,” said Ammons, asking for students and their families, friends and alumni to trust FAMU to resolve the issues.
Where does Ammons’ confidence in solving the issues come from? “Everybody wants (FAMU) to be successful. We are going to add to that a team that is confident-a team that is capable of solving these issues,” he said.
Although unable to make the press conference due to surgery, FAMU National Alumni Association President Alvin Bryant said, “The Ammons’ administration is a new beginning for Florida A&M University.”
“Whatever is in the capability and scope of the NAA” is what Bryant says the NAA will do to help in that success. “Raising money to recruit students and give scholarships is what we’re prepared to do right now,” he said.
Dedra O’Neal, NAA business manager, was present at the event and said “We have done things to help.” According to O’Neal, they raised $71,000 at the Alumni Association Florida Regional Conference, held in Ft. Lauderdale June 21-24, $40,000 in scholarships at the northeast regional meeting and also confirmed $14,415 from their annual FAMU Church Day.
Among other plans, Ammons said he will identify people that need training and that with everyone on the same page, “…there isn’t going to be any dissention when it comes time to get things done.”
Since his selection and approval by the BOT, Ammons has been working with a transition team, meeting with faculty, staff and students. He said “I am going to continue that (evaluation) which has been taking (account of) the skills and assets at the university.”
Bryant believes that another necessary solution FAMU’s financial turmoil is to provide supervision of FAMU’s financial accounting systems and all of the monies that come into the university. “What Mark Rosenberg and the Board of Governors can do is put competent members on the BOT that have financial expertise,” he said, in reference to the three vacant BOT spots. Bryant said “There is not anyone on there that has any real good financial training.”
Bryant emphasized, “The BOT and the President make up the presidency. If there is an imbalance in the competence of both parties then that is a problem for the university,” while maintaining his stance that Ammons is the right person to fix things.
“At the end of the day you have to believe the fiscal information that your people are giving you is accurate,” said vice chairman of the FAMU board of trustees Rev. R.B. Holmes. “What you want is people who are competent, credible, compassionate and have passion for FAMU,” Holmes said.
Ammons also reflected on his experience with SACS when questioned on how it will help. He said he had the opportunity to engage in off-site and on-site visits and that he had “…opportunities to look into issues, financial as well as educational.”
Dr. Tom Benberg, SACS vice president and chief of staff, verified that Ammons has served as a commissioner and peer reviewer for SACS on occasion. A commission of 77 members representing various colleges and universities make final decisions in school accreditation.
In full confidence of Ammons, Holmes said “We will get off probation. We are going to make sure that this university does not repeat what has happened in the past several years.”