FAMU President resigns as hazing lawsuit announced

Jul 11, 2012

Florida A & M University President James Ammons resigned Wednesday in the wake of the hazing death of Marching 100 band drum major Robert Champion and other problems facing the university.

Last month FAMU’s board of trustees issued a vote of no-confidence in Ammons’ job performance. That vote was a criticism against the way his administration has handled the fallout from the hazing death of band drum major Robert Champion and other problems that have cropped up during his presidency. After the no-confidence vote, Ammons’ vowed to stay on to resolve the problems. So his decision Wednesday to step down caught even his top-level staff off guard:

“It took us by surprise. I learned about it today," said University Spokeswoman Sharon Saunders says she learned about Ammons’ decision just hours before the school’s board was set to meet. 

 “As Mrs. Saunders said, that was our first notification of it. The President spent some time talking about his contributions and the wish for the university to continue to be successful," said Provost Larry Robinson.

Later on FAMU board of Trustee member Rufus Montgomery called for a quick resolution to Ammons’ employment. Montgomery who has been critical of the president also suggested that the terms of Ammons’ contract should be re-negotiated.

“It only makes sense that we have an open and transparent discussion about the terms of his exit. This was unexpected. It was unanticipated. It’s too big to defer to one person. And every board member, if they choose to, should be able to way in.”   

But FAMU’s attorney Avery Knight told trustees they have very little control over Ammons’ resignation or the terms of his departure.  

“Dr. Ammons may terminate his employment at any time as president with a minimum of 90-days prior notice to the board of trustees. And it doesn’t require an acceptance by the board to make it effective. "

Ammons’ decision to step down comes on the same day as the family of drum major Robert Champion announced a wrongful death lawsuit against the school. During an investigation into hazing in the band program it was learned that about 100 members of the band weren’t enrolled as students. FAMU has also been under criticism for incomplete audits done by its ex-audit director. And the Florida Senate is considering their own investigation into Ammons. In his resignation letter he says he’ll stay on as President until October 11, and then remain at the university as a tenured professor.