FAMU Trustees Want Updates from Embattled President
By Margie Menzel
The News Service of Florida
Florida A&M University trustees recently approved a plan for embattled President Elmira Mangum to provide them with comprehensive monthly progress reports between now and a November meeting, when they will again consider her performance.
The trustees also approved an annual evaluation of Mangum, who has been on the job for little more than a year. Last month, trustees concluded that Mangum – formerly the vice president for planning and budget at Cornell University – hadn’t met expectations in four of 10 categories. Two trustees contended she hadn’t met expectations in any of them.
Among other things, trustees have complained in recent months about Mangum’s hiring decisions and a lack of communication with them. But the public complaints led to a backlash in June, when five lawmakers who are Florida A&M graduates called for an inquiry into whether trustees were overstepping their authority.
On Aug. 6, the board took steps to require more detailed and frequent communications from Mangum.
After Vice Chairman Kelvin Lawson proposed that Mangum provide monthly progress reports, Trustee Bettye Grable suggested that the president also include supporting documentation.
“In any evaluation, it is important that evidence be provided to support any statement that you say you’re accomplishing,” Grable said. “Of course, we expect that the president will achieve her goals. That is the expectation, and it will be very simple just to provide supporting documentation that these things are being accomplished.”
Trustee Lucas Boyce, however, said he didn’t want the board to “hamstring” Mangum with additional requirements, especially in light of recent efforts to “reset” their relationship.
“I would prefer we allow the president to do the report, and then if it doesn’t have the meat and the information that we require as a board, then we make the motion that we tie all these criteria to it,” he said. “In the spirit of the reset, we should give her the benefit of the doubt.”
Boyce was the only trustee to oppose requiring the supporting data. But Mangum was unfazed, saying she’d designed a tool for providing data as well as narrative information in her reports.
“At six months, you’ll see where we are, but you’ll also see the progress we have made and the activities associated with it,” she told the trustees.
The board also agreed to a proposal to review Mangum’s reports and receive a verbal update from her in its November meeting.
But it was clear that Mangum had already taken steps to improve relations with at least some of the trustees.
Trustee Robert Woody – who earlier this summer had given Mangum one of her poorest evaluations – thanked her on Aug. 6 for a series of phone calls and a recent visit to Gainesville, where he also serves on the board of Santa Fe College.
“I’ve been getting calls every Friday, and she’s been keeping me abreast of various issues,” Woody said.
He added that Mangum had attended meetings in Gainesville with University of Florida President Kent Fuchs, Santa Fe College President Jackson Sasser and Alachua County Schools Superintendent Owen Roberts, along with a reception for local leaders and FAMU alumni.
As the Aug. 6 meeting wound down, trustee Belinda Shannon urged the board to consider expectations for its own performance as well as Mangum’s. She also noted that the board is likely to hold a retreat in the near future and suggested it use part of the time to “really refining our vision.”
“We’ve spent a tremendous amount of time over the last several meetings on the presidential evaluation,” Shannon said. “We’ve spent time giving statements on internal relationships. But I think that we as a board also have some work to do in clarifying what we represent as a board and how we expect to get to that result.”
Board Chairman Rufus Montgomery agreed, saying he was committed to “moving in that direction.”
“I believe there has been some progression, and I look forward to working with Dr. Mangum in a positive way as we move the university forward,” Montgomery said after the meeting.
Mangum said that it would not be “constructive” to take offense at the board’s moves.
“We’re doing everything we can to cooperate and meet their needs for information and involvement,” she said. “That’s the best we can do.”