SACS Probation, Administrative Policies take spotlight at BOT Meeting

Florida A&M University’s plan to move the university out of probationary status, as well as implementing new policies and procedures was at the center of Wednesday’s Board of Trustees meeting.

The Reverend R.B. Holmes presented university president, James Ammons to the board. This was Ammons first official introduction and presentation to the university’s BOT and to the students, faculty and staff in attendance.

“The highest of honor is to get that call from your alma mater to be asked to be its’ president,” Ammons told the group. “This board should know it has my full attention on moving forward to face our future together. Thank you for the opportunity.”

Ammons welcomed the new board members, including the new Interim Provost and Vice President of Faculty and Affairs, Barbara Barnes.

He also discussed the new “first 100 days plan” the university is putting in place to help remedy its’ financial troubles and reassure the public views of the school.

During the first 100 days of Ammons’ administration, the university plans to implement a variety of changes and evaluation processes to counteract the 500-day probation FAMU was placed on by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

As a part of the plan, Ammons said the university would research existing and past issues based on faculty integrity, accountability, responsibility and leadership.

“We must identify the root of the problems and come up with a corrective action plan,” he said.

The president also mentioned several review sessions that the BOT will hold to ensure standards and policies are upheld. To implement these reviews, FAMU will work with oversight groups on audit teams and integrate transitions with advisory team recommendations.

During the meeting, the board approved a proposed policy that recommended not increasing tuition or fees for free visitor parking passes.

Permanent accreditation for the university’s law school was another focal point, as the university is actively seeking a permanent dean for the college of law.

“The deadline is 2009 for full accreditation,” Ammons said. “We are preparing (because) it is important to have a permanent dean in place.” He said he believes a permanent leadership will help to resolve any issues.

Ammons echoed the need for a stable dean in this department by mentioning the new interim dean of the College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences.

The board chose not to address issues concerning the school of nursing because of the lack of knowledge about the situation and lack of potential solutions to the matter.

“It is a complex issue and once a resolution is brought we will formally address the issue.” Ammons said.

The meeting concluded with a public comment portion. The failing school grade of the FAMU Developmental Research School was a high point of interest.

“I’m asking (because) the parents are crying for help. DRS is in need (and) our children are failing,” said Barbara Thompson, president of FAMU’s Chapter of United Faculty.

The recent departure of Cheryl Jennings, former superintendent for FAMU DRS, was a hot topic during the public comment portion. Jennings left June 30 because she felt she wasn’t given the autonomy she needed to make the school a success, according to several parents and faculty members.

In fact, many of them have asked to have her brought back, with more pay, better facilities and more control over what goes on during the educational process.

“The DRS needs great improvement,” said Hope Williams, the parent of a FAMU DRS student. “I’m torn between my loyalty to the school and my child.”

Some of the issues brought up regarding DRS included a loss of faculty due to lack of sufficient payment and lack of financial backing for basic educational support.

The board said they appreciated the passion and vigor many of the parents and faculty had and that they would look into the issue.