The Florida A&M Board of Trustees’ meeting concentrated on the unclear logistics of the Polkinghorne Village dormitories and the university’s search for a new president.
Trustee Spurgeon McWilliams said the presidential search was “well underway.”
He said the marketing and communications sub-committee, which includes Trustees Torey Alston, Tommy Mitchell and Naryan Persaud, has developed a website that will launch Oct. 6, featuring a presidential search timeline, news releases and meeting dates and agendas.
The sub-committee will also launch a survey on the same date to find out what students, faculty and community members want out of the university’s potential president.
Trustee William “Bill” Jennings said at the Sept. 20 meeting that it’s important for the BOT to reach an agreement as to who it’s looking for to become the next president “because ultimately, it’s the board’s responsibility to select a president.
And a disagreement or misunderstanding of the type of person we’re looking for creates problems for us.”
The board said it would look for candidates in private and public sectors during the search, as well as candidates outside of “academia,” although someone with an academic background is preferred.
It also said a new president will be chosen by the fall 2013 semester.
Members also listened to an update of the Polkinghorne Village residence hall project by Sam Houston, FAMU’s director of facilities planning and construction.
But before that, the board’s General Counsel Avery McKnight recommended that the board not discuss aspects of the project’s finances because representatives of Premier Construction and Development, Inc., the company initially contracted to the project, were in attendance.
Premier’s counsel, however, assured the board there would be no litigation for speaking about it.
Houston said the project’s total construction cost wouldn’t exceed $42 million.
He said that on Nov. 1, “we would be coming back to the board with a recommendation of a contract to move forward” with completing the 800-bed facility.
Houston also said the project is scheduled to be completed by June 1, 2014.
Many trustees, however, were confused with the project’s budget and timeline, which has been largely inconsistent, due to the cancellation of Premier’s contract.
Interim President Larry Robinson also discussed Chief Financial Officer Teresa Hardee’s resignation, as her last day is this Thursday.
“(Hardee) will now serve in a new administrative role at Delaware State University, another historically black college,” Robinson said. “I want to thank her, and I know many of you would join me in doing so as well.”
Approved by Hardee, Trustee Rufus Montgomery then moved to designate Robinson, Joseph Bakker, the newly appointed interim vice president for administrative and financial services and CFO and William Featherstone, assistant vice president/controller, “as university employees authorized to sign checks” on behalf of FAMU.
Robinson also discussed the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s investigative summary report, which was released last week, that reviewed marching band finances, FAMU purchase cards, travel and non-travel expenses, the division of audit and compliance, and band staff compensation.
“After the hearing and report,” Robinson said, “we have initiated and completed a series of mandatory training sessions for all purchase cardholders, as well as staff responsible for submitting any types of documentation associated with this process.”
The report concluded that the majority of the issues and concerns of the investigation resulted from “a lack of internal controls and administrative oversight substantially contributed to a systemic lack of regard for or adherence to university policy and procedure.
Robinson also said they will use an “independent set of eyes” to strict compliance of university regulations.
Trustee Marjorie Turnbull also sought approval of the Equity Accountability Plan report, which contains information relating to equity policies, academic reviews, student services assessments, gender equity in athletics, etc.
“The purpose (of the report) is to show that the university does not discriminate,” said Turnbull. She shared data from the report, including falling numbers in full time first time in college (FTIC) enrollment and retention of full time FTIC students.
Turnbull said the university is looking to enhance its technology, including developing faculty and adviser technology to assist monitoring students’ progress. It also suggests starting a student success committee.
“These will provide additional access to students and make programs more cost-effective,” Turnbull said.