Florida A&M University President, Elmira Mangum started her day addressing the media Monday morning in the president’s conference room.
Mangum began the meeting with an opening statement.
“I wanted to take this time to share with you and answer any questions in regards to what’s happening in the university, especially as it relates to my vision for the university, and our leadership. As well as what I’ve been focused on,” Mangum said.
The conversational-like dialogue with the “naturally-introverted, shy” Mangum opened up an easier way of communication between her and the reporters.
Nine representatives from different news organizations arrived to the conference room with questions concerning topics that have been unanswered these past two weeks.
The emergency Board of Trustees meeting that was called in an attempt to terminate her contract was one of the main focal points. Her relationships with trustee members who voted to fire her, and the relationship with the student body also came up in the conference.
The Board’s 7:30 a.m. emergency meeting on Oct. 22 to terminate Mangum’s contract ended –after three hasty hours- with two failed motions: a 5-7 vote to terminate with cause, and a 6-6 vote to terminate without cause.
On the day of the meeting, she was in North Carolina and said that the “blindsided” meeting attempting to immediately end her contract appalled her.
“There is swirl in the air, –‘we don’t like the president’”— Mangum said. “… When the agenda was set, I was prepared to talk about what the malfeasance was and what the improper financial things that they were talking about were. So to open up a meeting and say ‘fire the president,’ I was shocked by it, because part of what we have in that contract is to have conversations about disagreements.
Following the two failed motions, trustee member Rufus Montgomery stepped down the next day from his post as chairman of the Board. Five days later, longtime FAMU Board member, Spurgeon McWilliams resigned.
McWilliams wrote a letter of resignation to State University System Chancellor, Marshall Criser that said: “Please accept this letter as formal notification that I am resigning from the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees effective today, October 28, 2015. It has been my esteemed pleasure to serve my alma mater in this capacity and I wish the best for Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University.”
Vice Chairman, Kelvin Lawson now leads the BOT.
Many people, like Board of Governors member Alan Levine, who monitors state universities, said in a op/ed piece in the Tallahassee Democrat that on one side, Mangum inherited a university that was in the rebuilding process from past issues such as: possibly losing accreditation, the athletic program facing NCAA sanctions, and the loss of a student in a hazing incident.
On the other hand, he said that she must also know that the Board of Trustees should handle that rebuilding process and not solely handle it herself.
“Given the multitude of issues facing FAMU over the past year, one should expect the chair to be especially proactive in tracking the university’s progress. Oversight is, after all, the board’s role, and the board is ultimately responsible for the university meeting its goals.”
With all the events that have taken place within the past two weeks, Mangum said that it never crossed her mind to resign and leave her post.
“It made me even more committed because I still believe in the democratic process,” Mangum said. “Everybody has an opinion, and everybody has a way to express that. So I believe in majority rule – move forward.”
Generally perceived as a student advocate, she said that she keeps them in mind when making leadership decisions to move FAMU forward.
“Honestly, they’re 100 percent of the reason that I do everything I do,” she said. “It’s all about FAMU students being able to get those opportunities."