FAMU BOT is Example of What Needs to Change

Dwight Floyd Commentary

Dwight Floyd

Recently the Tallahassee Democrat stated that between FAMU President Dr. Elmira Mangum and members of the FAMU Board of Trustees who have formed an adversarial position and are entrenched, one or both parties need to be dismissed. Members of the Board of Governors has used the situation to do nothing more than add fuel to the fire. Meanwhile, the FAMU community is just tired of it. The most recent charade by the BOT and all of these responses are examples of what has over the years been an apparent failure of the FAMU administration and evidence of what needs to change.

FAMU does not need the Governor’s office or the Board of Governors to set things straight; and certainly not the Tallahassee Democrat. These parties have already demonstrated a lack of understanding of the needs of this University and the community it serves. Notwithstanding the people in these positions, neither the Governor’s office nor the Board of Governors has ever been a strong advocate of the role of Florida A&M University. The Tallahassee Democrat has an obligation to increase readership and their articles read more like the comment pages on social media than investigative news. Thus, they make a mockery of the situation. If these parties were openly honest their vision is to send the many scholars who graduate from FAMU, a research school, to a four-year state college instead with fewer social and economic opportunities. Ironically, the role of the university seems to be the one thing that all parties presently in an adversarial state agree on.

In most cases, the talent is present, but the lack of professionalism and accountability are parts of the culture that must change. It is not unusual for people to be particularly disrespectful and less than formal. Alumni and even current students are witnesses to the many times that the accounting office has lost financial aid applications and acted rudely when asked for help. There are numerous stories of individuals holding positions and showing no dedication to the work to be performed. There are others who treat the institution like they own it and manage its resources in a common fashion. This gives reason to many of the changes already made by Dr. Mangum.

For the most part members of the FAMU Board of Trustees either have not accepted or do not understand their roles. They have confused responsibility with power and authority. They have shown they lack the maturity necessary to be objective and effective leaders, for example speaking with the President in confidence about making key personnel changes and then divulging the conversation in public to undermine her efforts. Board members must beware of those who encourage their current pursuits lest they continue to demonstrate that they care little about the University and more about themselves.

Photo by Dwight Floyd

Photo by Dwight Floyd

Repeatedly members of the board have said that they thought it important to hire a person with budget experience. It seems they intended to hire a change agent for the sole purpose of managing the budget, while they run the University. If you were in Dr. Mangum’s shoes how would you respond to a board that attempts to micromanage you and at the same time appears to lack integrity and not have a clue? She has responded by forming a vision and establishing a leadership team to pursue that vision. She has engaged the students and the community, and increased FAMU’s financial holdings.

What has the board accomplished in the last eighteen months? As a board they need to refresh their roles and responsibilities. They must rise to the occasion to meet the needs of this public University as the needs are today. They must accept the legal and professional protocols that come with this volunteer part time job. Moreover, their efforts should reflect a desire to advance the University even above their own professional careers.

If the current board members prove willing to stay true to their roles and responsibilities, and actively pursue the more earnest goals of a board trustee than that which has consumed them, there is actually a chance they may be able to work with FAMU’s President and respectfully address concerns; many of which need not make the news. If they prove incapable of doing this, then one by one they should all step aside to make room for someone who is more qualified to serve.

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