Florida A&M President James H. Ammons emailed academic deans Thursday calling for a meeting the next morning. It was a task usually reserved for the provost.
Ammons entered the conference room Friday and announced that special assistant Larry Robinson would serve as the new provost effective immediately.
Ousted provost Cynthia Hughes Harris was not included in the email, nor was she present at the meeting.In a letter released Friday, Ammons said he was shifting his leadership team and has “assigned members of my executive leadership team to areas where their skills and experience are needed the most.”
Robinson is no stranger to the position. He served as provost from 2003-2005, chief operating officer in 2007 and was appointed FAMU vice president for research in 2009.He previously served as special assistant to Ammons.
Robinson took a leave of absence in 2010 to serve as assistant secretary of commerce for conservation and management at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Robinson’s ties with the university are lengthy. He served as the director of environmental sciences programs, and in 1998 and 1999, pushed for B.S. and Ph.D. degrees within the school. The faculty union president welcomes Robinson’s expertise.
“If Larry Robinson can be our academic policeman (which is what a provost is supposed to be) and focus on these issues and get things done, I congratulate him and wish him well on his future accomplishments,” said Elizabeth Davenport, the president of the United Faculty of Florida FAMU chapter.
Hughes Harris will return to a position she also once held, dean of the School of Allied Health. Barbara Mosely, the current dean of allied health, will be associate dean.
“It was shocking news,” said School of Journalism and Graphic Communication Dean James Hawkins. “They [Ammons, Hughes Harris and Robinson] were in agreement that this would benefit the university.”
The shift in administration comes a month before a scheduled visit from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which was initiated in part by a complaint within the School of Allied Health, and led to a review of grade changes and incomplete grades throughout the university. Hughes Harris was dean of the school until 2008.SACS and FAMU have a mixed history.
In 2007, the university was put on probation after a number of financial issues. In 2010 the university was granted full accreditation. FAMU was the first HBCU to be accredited by SACS in 1935.Hughes Harris had a hand in the restructuring process that took place last year, advocating dropping the division of graduate studies and research. Twenty-four programs were dropped from the curriculum.
Ammons also announced that Avery McKnight will serve as vice president for the Office of Legal Affairs and General Counsel, which will oversee operations of risk management, labor relations and the Office of Equal Opportunity Employment.
Davenport said a change was necessary.
“Right now, we are facing $12.3 million worth of cuts. How do we do that when we have a bloated administration?” she asked.A university official couldn’t confirm or deny whether the changes were connected to the SACS visit.