Southern Schools Association Chides Gov. Scott over Ammons

Following the death of FAMU drum major, Robert Champion, Gov. Rick Scott requested Florida A&M President, James H. Ammons to step aside while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducts two investigations.

This gesture sparked the interest of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges. SACS-COC, according to its website, is the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in the southern states.

SACS-COC has 80 principles that schools must adhere to in order to maintain its accreditation.

Standard 3.2.4 reads, “The governing board is free from undue influence from political, religious, or other external bodies and protects the institution from such influence.”

Scott’s intervention was a clear violation of this standard.

Belle Wheelan, president of SACS-COC, sent a letter to Scott’s office, Dec. 16, 2011.

The letter was sent to inform Scott that his intervention with the school was approaching “sensitive territory,” said Maurice Edington, the QEP Director and SACS Accreditation Liaison.

“Should the board decide to suspend the president that is well within their role as members of the governing board. If, however, they do so at your direction, they will jeopardize the accreditation of the university as well as its ability to provide federal financial aid to their students,” reads the letter.

At the Dec. 19, 2011 meeting, FAMU’s Board of Trustees voted against Scott’s request to suspend Ammons.

Edington said that if the BOT would have suspended Ammons FAMU could have been under review by SACS-COC.

Some recent graduates aren’t too pleased with the predicament FAMU is in, believing it will hinder their chances of gaining employment.

Casey Probus, a 26-year-old from Rahway, NJ, received her bachelor’s degree in physical education, last year.

“I think it can have an effect (on finding a job). When you step out for employment and they ask you where you graduated from, and you say FAMU, the first question isn’t about your education, “said Probus.

Current students seem secure about the situation.

“I feel like it’s (the school’s accreditation) not threatened. The school has so much historical value, we won’t lose our accreditation,” said Michael Taylor, a 20-year-old engineering student from Panama City, Fla.

Taylor’s mother, however, wasn’t pleased with FAMU’s situation. She was nervous about her son’s education.

The million dollar question that everyone wants to know the answer to is, “Will FAMU lose its accreditation?” According to Edington, “FAMU’s accreditation remains in very good standing.”

“The board clearly demonstrated they are in control of the university,” said Edington.

He is glad to see the Board of Trustees “exert their influence.”

Repeated attempts to contact the BOT and FAMU’s student body president, Breyon Love, were unsuccessful.