The Florida A&M Board of Trustees will stand by its earlier decision not to suspend university president, James H. Ammons, until the details of the investigation of the death of Robert Champion have been fully released.
“The Board wants to reaffirm its authority to govern the university. We take very seriously our responsibility to maintain and protect the integrity of the university,” said Board Chairman, Solomon Badger during an emergency teleconference meeting on Monday morning. “We will stand firm against outside influence, regardless of how well intended,” he said.
Although there was no vote regarding the status of Ammons, weekly teleconferences to address new information and to keep the Board abreast of the investigation were outlined.
Vice Chair Richard Dent was in agreement with the decision of the BOT, but said, “until information is essentially delivered to the Board, it is very hard for the Board to deliberate.”
Dent said that members would wait for official information, not from media outlets, to be released before deliberating further.
Ammons’ role as FAMU president will come under annual review in January by the BOT in conjunction with consultant, Ed Penson, who has conducted previous reviews of the HBCU.
Monday’s BOT meeting follows a press conference held Sunday afternoon by FAMU National Alumni Association president, Tommy Mitchell, where in he maintained that FAMU was being singled out by Gov. Rick Scott, when hazing deaths are occurring at other universities.
“You be clear on this,” said Mitchell in a telephone interview this morning, “there are other deaths that have occurred, this year. Why is FAMU getting this much publicity?”
Mitchell did not divulge which other incidents he was referring to but did say that a hazing death had occurred as recently as Dec. 13.
A suspected hazing death at a Bowling Green State University fraternity occurred Dec. 13, although the incident is still under investigation.
There have been allegations that the governor’s motives to push FAMU into the spotlight are racially motivated. Mitchell said although he believed that race was a factor, there were other initiatives involved.
“The governor has a right to his opinion,” said Mitchell, “but that’s where it should end. Politics shouldn’t play a role.”
Scott released a statement Sunday that said, “I have not singled out Florida A&M University as I immediately called on all universities throughout the state to examine their hazing and harassment policies and requested that the state’s 11 public university presidents also remind their students, faculty and staff of how detrimental hazing can be.”
Scott has repeatedly claimed that his motive to recommend Ammons be suspended was in the best interest of the university and would allow the investigation to proceed, unhindered by the oversight of the president.
Scott has said he will stand by the BOT’s decision. “I will not try to influence their decision. I simply offered my advice and opinion based on the events and the facts I was made aware of.”