BOT selects committee for new president

The overriding tone at the first FAMU Board of Trustees meeting of the fiscal year held Oct. 6 focused on maintaining the positive steps of the University under Interim president Castell V. Bryant’s leadership.

Paul Stepusin of the financial firm KPMG, said Bryant’s moratorium on spending, payroll audits, elimination of four varsity sports and the expulsion of non-FAMU students from the Marching 100, “were contributing factors to this (financial) turnaround.”

Trustee Al Cardenas asked his fellow trustees not to allow FAMU’s financial situation decline in the years following crisis mode. A mode he said the University is still currently under.

The balancing of the books are projects under the Facilities Planning Committee headed by Cardenas. Four of the five campus projects under that segment of the agenda were constructed at or below the anticipated budget.

“There are so many things we want to do, that we are only able to do with funding,” said BOT Chairperson Challis M. Lowe. “If you want to have the money to use (it’s) important we can’t waste it. You want the flexibility with money.”

During the Board’s previous meeting, Student Government President Ramon Alexander asked the Board to form a search committee for a permanent University president.

Alexander’s request was granted Thursday when Lowe assigned BOT members Alexander, Mary Diallo, Laura Branker, Leerie Jenkins and R.B. Holmes to head a committee for the new president. Holmes is the chairman of the search committee.

Lowe said the members of the committee will, “understand the issues the University is facing (and)…the kind of leadership needed to address the challenges.”

The five-member panel will be expected to extensively sit with Bryant to see what direction the University is heading and to receive her thoughts on the responsibilities of the permanent president.

“There are a lot of things you have to do before you get a new (president). It’s not a sprint but a convenient marathon,” Alexander said. “It is still important that we move on in a structural manner.”

By adding Alexander to the panel, Lowe said it would allow students to have a say in the selection of a president, adding she couldn’t imagine the students not having an input on the future president.

“The student is our customer at this University. Hopefully (Alexander) can bring that perspective (to the committee,)” Lowe said.

Bryant is not eligible for the permanent presidential position due to a University rule that stipulates an interim president cannot apply for the permanent position.

Since Bryant is an interim, this will also have an effect when FAMU faces the infractions committee of the NCAA later this month. With many positions in the athletic department filled by people with an interim label, the Board filed a resolution for commitment to compliance of any sanctions levied. The NCAA is expected to give the University a final decision within three to six months.

As the six-hour meeting drew to a close, the Board opened the floor to public comments. One mother of a student drove from Pensacola to address the financial aid situation involving her daughter. She cited not paying her telephone and cable bills in order to help her child eat.

“I don’t know if I was helped (by the financial aid department), but I was heard. It is despicable to have a department that is not working,” she said.

Regarding financial aid, trustee Barney Bishop, earlier in the meeting, posed the question of when the ERP system will issue net checks, in which dispersed checks would already cover students’ living and reading expenses.

In a BOT meeting in April, Bill Tucker, a physics professor and president of the United Faculty of Florida, asked the trustees to consider giving the faculty a raise for the 2004-2005 school year.

At Thursday’s meeting, Tucker said the two sides were still at an impasse in terms of a Collective Bargaining Agreement with the faculty.

When the Board convenes again in December, the panel is expected to meet with Bryant and presumably have a pool of permanent successors named. Bryant said she would brief the new president on the final NCAA findings.

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