One Famu Divided

President Fred Gainous’ vision of “Creating One FAMU” may have come to an end Tuesday when the Board of Trustees voted 9 to 4 to terminate his contract with Florida A&M University Jan. 1, 2005 unless the board members give Gainous a unanimous vote of support during their Dec. 14 meeting.

After hearing the complaints of many alumni during the public comments portion of the board meeting, Trustee Challis Lowe made a motion to terminate President Gainous’ effective immediately with Trustee Bill Jennings seconding her motion. “Today, we have finally come to grips with the fact that we need a change in leadership at the University,” said Lowe. “In my opinion, Gainous is a gentle and nice person, but this is not about him as a person. This is about the toughness that he needs to have as a leader in order to make decisions and tell us as a Board what needs to be done.”

The motion for immediate termination was then amended by Student Government Association President Virgil Miller, and became a vote to terminate Gainous Jan. 1 if he does not have unanimous support from the board by that time. Miller said he offered the amendment in order to lay the groundwork for and ensure a smooth and peaceful transition if the president is relieved of his duties.

“I proposed this motion to ensure that the day to day operations of the University won’t be negatively impacted by an abrupt change in leadership,” said Miller, a second year graduate allied health student. “However, we cannot place the blame of our University’s problems on one person. We must also address our shortcomings as a Board.”

The move to terminate Gainous stems from a variety of problems under his leadership that some trustees say include failure to hire college deans and an effective administrative team in a timely fashion; the poor management of the University’s athletic department and its failed move to Division 1-A and the subsequent NCAA violations that soon followed; the State Auditor General’s report that showed FAMU’s bank statements were untimely, incomplete, and error prone; and the stop of paychecks to top administrative officials until late financial statements were turned into the Florida Department of Financial Services, formerly the Florida Department of Banking and Finance.

Students, faculty, alumni and many friends of the University filled the Grand Ballroom and voiced their concerns about the campus leadership and the direction the University is headed in.

“It is our right as stakeholders to ensure that the president does not have another eight years to mismanage and make a mockery of the University,” said Alvin Bryant, president of the FAMU National Alumni Association. “[Alumni] demand an effective new president with a vision that will move this University forward… Let it be known that thousands of graduates of this University no longer have confidence in this president’s ability to lead the University.”

Many of Gainous’ opponents expressed how the University is not living up to its full potential and has ventured into virtual obscurity on the national scene due to the president’s lack of leadership.

“The blood letting and the bleeding must stop,” said Vanessa Byers, president of the Miami-Dade Chapter of the FAMU Alumni Association. “The Board of Trustees must do what they are legislatively mandated to do [which is to] protect Florida A&M.”

FAMU’s Board of Trustees has experienced many highs and lows during its tenure. Trustee Barney Bishop expressed major concerns that too many trustees were “pointing fingers” instead of being accountable for their own actions. “Negative news doesn’t always need to be aired out at these meetings…this Board, under current leadership, has aired more of [the school’s] dirty laundry than has ever happened before,” Bishop said.

The only consensus that could be reached at the tension prone meeting is that the University is not doing all that it possibly can in order to remain competitive and fiscally sound. Gainous stressed the fact that he is still ready, willing and able to lead FAMU and help it meet the challenges of the future.

“I feel I have accumulated enough experience to be an effective leader,” Gainous said. “The changes that are required at FAMU today are as significant as the changes over the last 50 years… we must remain committed to meet FAMU’s challenges.”

Contact Malcolm Glover at