Florida A&M University President James Ammons is under increasing pressure to resign and that pressure ratcheted up another notch Thursday. At a meeting of FAMU’s board, trustee’s issued a vote of no-confidence in the embattled president. Lynn Hatter reports the move is the latest stemming from the hazing death of one of the school’s drum majors.
FAMU Trustee Bill Jennings made his displeasure known in the wake of the news that more than a hundred members of the band had been allowed to travel and participate without being enrolled at the university. Jennings called that a misuse of public money and trust.
“I feel that if Dr. Ammons was aware of these things, he would have taken steps to make sure they didn’t happen. But they did happen. And because it did happen, it indicates there was a breakdown in whatever it takes in getting that info. To the president. And I do know that this university is in a crisis. One we haven’t dealt with in the past.”
Jennings called the lack of oversight a failure of the administration and lack of control and oversight within university controls. Those extra students came to light through a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into hazing in the band following the death of drum major Robert Champion.
Jennings also took Ammons to task over fraudulent audits done by the school’s ex-audit director. At least five of the 13 missing reports were tied to the band’s finances. Only four of FAMU’s trustees sided with Ammons. One of them, board member Kelvin Lawson said much of the ability to deal with the fallout from the hazing scandal and audit issues was taken out of Ammon’s control.
"I feel like the administration has been tied in their ability to act due to the external investigations taking place, and the university’s leadership was specifically asked to stand down. So, as chairman Jennings has stated facts, I believe there are extenuating circumstances behind some of those facts as well," he said.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement told the school to stop any administrative actions until its investigations were complete.
The board’s “no-confidence” vote in Ammons comes days after Board of Governor’s Chairman Dean Colson wrote a letter citing problems with the way the school’s administration has handled the ongoing hazing cases. Colson also expressed concern over a student-on-student sexual abuse case at FAMU’s lab school, and the accreditation status of the physical and cardiopulmonary therapy programs, which are on probation. An arrest has been made in the sex abuse case.
Update 6:18 pm: Board of Governors Chairman Dean Colson and State Representative Allen Williams have issued opposing press releases on the move by FAMU Board of Trustees members to issue a no-confidence vote in University President James Ammons:
Dean Colson of Miami, Chair of the Florida Board of Governors:
“I recognize how difficult it must be for the FAMU Board of Trustees to take aggressive steps to reverse the trend of the past year. Among the most important functions of the Boards of Trustees is the selection, reappointment, and evaluation of university Presidents – it is a process at the heart of accountability.
“The work of a university Trustee is rarely easy. It brings unique responsibilities, and FAMU has had a developing list of issues for more than a year, any one of which could put an institution into crisis. The safety of students enrolled and the experience they deserve are directly challenged by events during the past year. The FAMU Board of Trustees' leadership has never been more needed, so I sincerely appreciate their direct engagement that continues to identify, research and resolve every issue that needs their collective attention.”
State Rep. Alan Williams (D-Tallahassee) issued the following statement concerning FAMU President James Ammons:
"As a state lawmaker and a graduate of Florida A&M University, I am very proud of my alma mater and recognize that tremendous challenges face the university during this era of reform.
"Today's vote of the FAMU Board of Trustees serves to recognize that there is a strong desire and willingness among university officials and leaders throughout Florida to bring more positive change to FAMU. I share that desire, but I also believe that President Ammons has demonstrated capability to lead the university, and he should be allowed to continue to lead the university, during this historic phase of development and progress at FAMU.
"I have full confidence in Dr. Ammons and the future of Florida A & M University."
Update 1:43 pm: The FAMU Board of Trustees has issued a vote of "no-confidence" in President Ammons citing the ongoing hazing investigations and fraudulent audits performed under his watch.
Ammons responded to the vote by saying he recognizes the situation is serious, and that he knows he has to fix the problems.
"This is very serious. This is serious for the future of this university and you have my commitment to fix it and get the job done," he told the board.
Ammons has been under mounting pressure with calls for him to resign or be fired. FAMU's Board of Trustees voted to reprimand him back in December.
Florida A&M University's President James Ammons is facing a vote of "no-confidence" from his board over the handling of the death of a band drum major that has led to several investigations and questions over the band's finances.
The case has raised questions over Ammon's ability to lead the school out of the crisis. The institution is also facing separate questions over fraudulent audits that were performed by the schools's ex-director of audit and compliance, and a student-on-student sexual abuse case at the k-12 school that FAMU runs.