FAMU needs a better BOT and president
By Willie Roberts
Special to the Outlook
In a recent article in the Democrat, Board of Governor trustee Alan Levine said the BOG’s patience is running thin and that the BOG will act if the FAMU BOT and President Elmira Mangum do not act. However, the BOG is already acting by sending Levine to micromanage both the FAMU BOT and Mangum. Mangum has accused the BOT of micromanagement and this has led to an irreconcilable difference between her and the BOT. But now the BOG is micromanaging both Mangum and the BOT, so why have a BOT? The only reason for a BOT is to give the illusion of autonomy, while blaming the leadership for not being autonomous.
To what extent should the BOG interfere with the day to day operation of any university in the system? The BOG is suppose to govern through the BOT at each university and not by sending another overseer to the university. So, if a BOT can’t work with a president and have tried twice to fire the president, that BOT should be replaced with a competent BOT. Even the most incompetent BOT would not try to fire a president twice on clearly unsubstantiated charges.
However, if the replacements are like the ones being replaced, the turmoil at FAMU will continue; because such trustees seem to act more on emotions rather than logic. A comparison between FAMU trustees and FSU trustees reveals that most FSU trustees are FSU graduates, business owners, lawyers, developers, and financial people. FAMU needs trustees like that, trustees who have had experience in applying logic to business problems. So, why doesn’t FAMU have a BOT like that? It can’t be that such trustees can’t be found. Clearly, the answer seems to be politics and a lack of concern for FAMU‘s best interest.
Levine has said the BOG will determine FAMU’s mission and implied that it will be done without input from FAMU. A precipitous move to change FAMU‘s mission and make it like other state universities will remove the need for two separate universities in Tallahassee. The BOG is acting in a duplicitous manner, because like the Trojan Horse, their action contains the seed for FAMU’s demise. This duplicity is also seen in Levine’s criticism of FAMU’s leadership, a leadership appointed directly and indirectly by the BOG and governor, when he says that leadership is an embarrassment and that “we have been witness to failed leadership, no matter who is at fault.”
However, it does matter “who is at fault” and the BOG and governor must also share much of the fault, since they gave FAMU the inept BOT which gave us a president who is politically naïve and a president who calls a press conference to promote banning the box for ex-felons when the university is faced with existential issues. Such a president lacks the qualities needed for educational leadership.
It is not wise for the BOG to threaten to “act” to take over operations at FAMU, because such threats raise a question of unequal treatment and political interference that accrediting agencies object to. Also, such an act by the BOG could generate protests similar to that at Mizzou. The situation at Mizzou exists to some degree at all major universities, as underscored by the “Stand With Mizzou” rally at FSU. The BOG should appreciate FAMU’s mission, because FAMU’s mission provides a place where all students are judged on their ability and the “content of their character rather than the color of their skin.”
Finally, FAMU must be held accountable for how taxpayer money is spent, but spending taxpayer money on FAMU is just as justifiable as spending taxpayer money on FSU. With eight openings coming up soon on the FAMU BOT, the BOG and governor have an opportunity to give FAMU a competent BOT and thereby a better president, ones that are just as good for FAMU as the ones at FSU are for it.