Big Week for FAMU: Board of Governors’ Deadline, Ammons’ Review

It’s a big decision week for President James H. Ammons and the Florida A&M Board of Trustees as they face Ammons’ evaluation and requests for key information.

Tuesday is the deadline that has been set Board of Governors Inspector General Derry Harper to submit all documents to the Board of Governors regarding the university’s anti-hazing plan.

On Jan. 20, Harper sent a letter to FAMU Board of Trustees Chairman Solomon Badger outlining which documents should be submitted including a list of a dozen documents and a Nov. 25 letter from suspended band director Julian White to university President Ammons, files dating as far back as January 2007 from the FAMU Police Department, the office of the vice president of student affairs, any university sanctioned student organizations and description of the president’s role at the university.

On Wednesday, according to the official agenda, Ammons will undergo his annual review by the BOT and several outside consultants including nationally known education consultant and a lead member for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Edward Penson.

The review will cover July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011, leaving out the fall 2011 semester in which FAMU went under the scope of the BOG, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and received attention on a national level after the hazing death of drum major Robert Champion Nov. 19 in Orlando, Fla.

The focus of reviews in the past has been perceptions, judgments and ratings by  

members of the BOT regarding progress on goal achievement, strengths and qualities the president brings to his role as president and the future professional development and suggestions for improvement. Trustees use a scale from one to seven to rate each aspect of the president’s role.

In a Jan. 6 interview, National Alumni Association President Tommy Mitchell said there were sure to be a few things to come up from the past year that would not give Ammons the spotless review he hoped for, but he is remaining optimistic that overall Ammons has guided the university in the correct direction and that should be reflected in his review.

“Some of those things that are coming up are going to make it difficult for him,” said Mitchell, “Frankly, I don’t know exactly what the tone is going to be, particularly since the board has been divided, so I really don’t know what to expect,” said Mitchell.

Mitchell called FAMU’s current state a glass half-full, glass half-empty situation.

“Depending on which way you look the institution certainly has gotten some recognition, unfortunately the Champion case has put a damper on some of the recognition that we’ve gotten but the institution has still being recognized as an outstanding college,” said Mitchell. “If you’re going to blame the president for some of the problems, you have to equally give him credit for the achievements.”

More recently, FAMU has come under scrutiny by the American Civil Liberties Union after Ammons announced at a mandatory safety forum that the induction of new members into student organizations would be suspended.

“The suspension will give us the opportunity to receive recommendations of the anti-hazing committee,” said Ammons at the forum held Jan. 31.

In a letter to Ammons Feb.3, Executive Director of the ACLU Howard Simon requested a copy of the suspension and any statement issued regarding the ban, calling the university’s decision to halt intake a potential infringement of the student’s First Amendment rights to freedom of assembly.

Derek Newton, spokesman for the ACLU of Florida said that it is still unclear whether student’s rights have been infringed upon, but there is concern about student’s rights to assembly.

“We’re not there yet,” said Newton, “We’re certainly are not taking the position that student’s rights are being infringed upon that’s why the first step was to request more information. We’d like to see the policy. We’d like to be able to discuss it with some experts within our organization and maybe ask some follow-up questions.”

Newton said there has been no response yet from FAMU, although it is still early.