James Ammons Resignation Effective ‘Immediately’
The Florida A&M University Board of Trustees is currently holding an emergency meeting to take the next steps in finding a replacement for retiring president James Ammons, who moments ago informed the board of his intention to resign immediately. Ahead for the board and its national search for a new campus CEO is the ongoing twists and turns with the Robert Champion hazing death scandal and its lawsuits, the very public cherry on the top of mounting criticism against the university for questionable financial audits and oversight issues from media and government alike.
Everyone wants in on the search. A local civil rights organization has weighed in suggesting that FAMU be willing to look outside of its alumni circle, and perhaps outside of African-American applicants for its next leader. Alumni want to monitor the selection process, and believe that Ammons could have led the school out of the controversy but was forced out despite large alumni support.
Like most presidential searches conducted on the heels of a firing or controversial resignation, the person seeking the job has to be a mad man or woman for wanting the task of clean up artist. No clean up job in the history of HBCUs will be larger and more contentious than this, as the next president of FAMU will have to navigate lawsuits, moving targets in PR and outreach objectives, financial questions and political pressure from the highest levels of Florida government. The next FAMU CEO will be expected to be many things to many people.
To students, someone who can instill confidence in campus culture and rebuild public trust in the value of student character. To alumni, the next president should be someone able to make swift decisions in what to do about the Marching 100, the bloated executive payroll, and media relations with oppositional news outlets like the Orlando Sentinel.
To Florida governor Rick Scott and the Florida State University System Board of Governors, the next FAMU president should be someone willing to lie down and accept dwindling funding and growth for the university; something that the former two groups will never accept from new leadership.
Given these unique cultural circumstances, and that FAMU is on solid academic footing through Dr. Ammons’ vision and the continued management of provost Larry Robinson, FAMU would benefit with youth at its highest office. Someone who can relate to students and symbolize vitality to alumni would be an immediate hit with these groups, and would bring immediate positive attention to the university. Someone who doesn’t mind a public fight with state government for expanded funding to FAMU, even with diminished leverage as a result of the Champion case, would speak to the hearts of FAMU supporters and HBCU observers nationwide who understand what the university means to black college culture.
FAMU needs a lifer, someone who wants to make a life out of making life better for Famuans and Floridians. Dr. Ammons was the prototype, but a bad culture of autonomy among students and executives cost him his job. The next man or woman up should be energetic, a new face outside of the usual HBCU presidential mold, and ready to work on day one.
Is FAMU is ready to think outside of the box for its own future?