A petition calling for alumni intervention against the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees and state legislators seeking to influence university leadership structure is gaining momentum on social media and among Rattler supporters.
Citing the university’s appointment of six presidents in the last 15 years, and drawing comparisons to legislative meddling alleged against lawmakers in South Carolina against South Carolina State University, the “I’m With FAMU; FAMU Today, FAMU Tomorrow, FAMU Forever” petition has drawn more than 336 signatures since launching earlier this week.
Written to FAMU Acting Board of Trustees Chairman Kelvin Lawson, Higher Education Chancellor Marshall Criser III, and a number of state and federal legislators from Florida, the petition specifically calls for continuing leadership under President Elmira Mangum, who has faced criticism from board members since contract negotiations following her appointment in January 2014, and two attempts to fire her last October.
They are using what we call the “South Carolina Strategy” to attempt to destroy FAMU. The SC Strategy includes:
1. Appointing Board Members who create chaos
2. Closing high-impact programs in STEM (e.g. joint engineering school)
3. Ensuring inconsistency in leadership (e.g. consistent dismissal of presidents)
4. Creating failure on state metrics
5. Ensuring that enrollment declines
6. Highlighting negative stories while burying positive news
7. Interfering in the selection process of new presidents
Dr. Elmira Mangum’s leadership at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University has brought stability to our alma mater Despite the consistent resistance to change by the previous members of the FAMU Board of Trustees during here two years in Office, our 11th and 1st Female President has begun to implement the changes necessary to turn FAMU around.
The petition was released just weeks after trustees critiqued Mangum for a “vague” response to evaluation criteria, and after the Florida Board of Governors removed board chairman Cleve Warren and announced new criteria for presidential searches conducted at public universities.
Mangum was publicly chided by trustees last year for what they perceived as a lack of communication and respect from Mangum towards the board, but has also been lauded for gains in the institution’s performance in state-mandated performance metrics and increases in research capacity.
The anonymous petition creator writes that support for Mangum is support for stability at the university.
We want to send a clear message that the alumni, students, faculty, and staff of Florida A&M University are 100% behind Dr. Mangum and we believe that she should not only receive an excellent presidential evaluation but also have her contract extended by the FAMU BOT. We believe that any action by the FAMU Board of Trustees, the Florida Board of Governors, or Governor Rick Scott to not extend or terminate the contract of Dr. Mangum will destabilize the University and send the institution backwards in the same ways that have been the case for South Carolina State University, Fayetteville State University and other HBCUs across the country where states are seeking the demise of our historic institutions.