The Board of Trustees voted to give Interim President Castell V. Bryant a $35,000 bonus and a new contract for up to two years.
While the presidential search committee will continue considering successors, the board decided that the new contract should allow for an early termination of Bryant’s contract if a replacement was found.
“We’ve started the search. If we find some super person we can act (to replace Bryant),” said Trustee W. George Allen, who suggested the bonus amount and duration of the new contract.
The decision to award Bryant with a bonus followed the disclosure of her performance evaluation by the board. The evaluation was mostly favorable of Bryant’s presidency, with her only low marks coming in the areas of student service and internal stakeholder relationships.
“This interim president came in at a difficult time. She has done a tremendous job,” said trustee R.B. Holmes, Jr., whose remarks were met by applause.
Following the discussion of Bryant’s raise and contract, Reginald Beal, chief negotiator for the Florida A&M University chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, and Bill Tucker, president of the FAMU UFF, addressed the board regarding raises for faculty.
Beal said that FAMU told UFF it could not offer raises because the University was in financial straits.
“That is not supported by the facts. FAMU finished $8 million dollars in the black, not the red,” Beal said.
Tucker congratulated Bryant on her bonus.
“I only wish the board would have found a way to reward the faculty,” he continued. He said that the board should have collective bargaining on every agenda until the issue is resolved.
Bryant responded by referring to a budget presentation given earlier in the meeting by Gerald Dunn, chief financial officer and vice president of fiscal affairs.
In that presentation, Dunn told the board that state auditors were still investigating last year’s finances and that he did not know when they would release their findings.
“The $8 million was an un-audited amount. Let’s not get into financial discussions until we know what we have,” Bryant said.
Trustees Holmes and Mary Diallo sympathized with the faculty and both said they wanted the issue to be resolved.
Chairperson Challis Lowe said that the board would give UFF’s concerns “very serious” consideration.
The issue was not resolved, but afterwards, Tucker seemed to see some progress from the discussion.
“This is the most we’ve ever gotten out of them. I think it’s because of that bonus,” he said.
Alice Wilson from the university’s Department of Enterprise Resource & Planning also addressed the board.
Wilson was emotional at times as she spoke of her sadness over the decision to outsource ERP jobs.
She said that the information system’s failure was caused by misuse, poor direction from university leaders and manipulation of ERP employees by superiors seeking personal gain.
“I respect each of you in your individual positions, even though you are going to outsource our jobs,” Wilson said.
She asked that the board lay aside personal agendas and realize that ERP is not an enemy, but part of the FAMU family.
“Please return excellence with caring,” Wilson concluded.
Trustee Holmes thanked her for her service, leadership and compassion. “I hope you are treated fairly,” he said.
The issue of financial aid reform was raised. Trustee Barney Bishop asked if the budget and finance committee were dealing with student financial aid problems.
Bryant informed him that the student services committee was working on the issue and would report their findings at the next meeting of the board, which is scheduled for March.
Afterwards, Student Government Association president and Trustee Ramon Alexander agreed with Bishop.
“They’re going to have the capacities hopefully in the near future to deal with financial aid better,” said, Alexander, 21, a senior political science student from Tallahassee.
Early in the meeting there was a heated debate begun by Trustee Bishop. Bishop asked Bryant via telephone about the status of the former College of Law Dean Percy Luney Jr.
Bryant said that he was no longer employed with the university and that she could not remember when he had left. Bishop said that he felt that the board deserved to be informed of the hiring and termination of top-level employees.
“All I’ve ever asked for is a modicum of respect regarding hirings and firings,” Bishop said.
Contact Mackenzie Turberville at mackenzieis@earthlink..com