BOT requests waiver; Robinson could be next permanent FAMU president


By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer

The FAMU Board of Trustees seemingly has taken the first step to retain Larry Robinson permanently as president of the university, requesting that the Board of Governor approve bypassing a national search.

The BOT voted unanimously (11-0) to appeal to the BOG for the waiver at its meeting last week in Jacksonville. However, at the same time BOT chairman Kelvin Lawson said the board will keep its options open.

Robinson has been interim president for almost a year, following the firing of Elmira Mangum last fall.

It’s expected that the request for a waiver will be considered when the BOG meets Aug. 30 in Gainesville, although board member Alan Levine said the agenda was already set. Meanwhile, Gregory Clark, president of FAMU’s National Alumni Association, said Lawson had communicated the request to the BOG following last Friday’s meeting in hope of getting a quick response.

Part of the haste in getting the process completed is the expiration of Robinson’s contract in September. Another potential factor is 14 current vacancies for presidents at Historically Black Colleges and Universities for which Robinson could be a potential candidate.

Should the BOG deny the request, the BOT has the option of offering Robinson the job or proceed with a national search.

Whichever way the trustees go, they will rely on a presidential profile that was presented at Friday’s meeting by Jeff KIirschner of RHR Consulting. RHR Consulting made its recommendations based on input from stakeholders, including alumni, students, and community leaders.

Bringing stability to FAMU’s leadership is one of the major concerns of stakeholders. Since Frederick Humphries retired in 2001, no permanent or interim president has served longer than five years and that happened just once with James Ammons, who was president from 2007 to 2012.

One of those community leaders who offered input on qualities required of the next president was Rev. R.B. Holmes, a strong FAMU supporter, who has led some fund-raising for the university.

“I will support the Board of Trustees’ decision,” Holmes said. “The Board must do what they think is in the best interest of FAMU.”

However, he said a national search would have “created the spirit of transparency and remove suspension and doubt.”

Robinson, however, has Holmes’ backing if that’s the way the board wants to go.

“He must bring in a strong and vibrant provost; and he must surround himself with a well qualified team,” Holmes said. “FAMU is at a crossroad; we must support President Robinson and the decision of the trustees. It is time for  solidarity. Dr. Robinson has my support and prayers.”

Clark was optimistic that the trustees would make Robinson permanent. He pointed to recommendations that stakeholders presented to the trustees favoring Robinson.

“I can’t speak for them (the trustees) but they’ve heard from the major stakeholders,” Clark said. “I can speak for the alumni and we feel we have our guy. I whole-heartedly endorse him.”

“With enrollment (at FAMU) being up and money being raised, we’ve got the ship going in the right direction. Why go trying to pull somebody else.”