Florida A&M "In A Fishbowl" After Accreditation Sanction

Dec 14, 2012

It’s the second time in less than five years the school is facing a sanction. This time, the problems stem from the hazing death of a drum major and lax oversight of funds given to the school band for travel. It’s also due to incomplete and fraudulent audits done by the school’s former auditor. In speaking with concerned students, faculty and staff in a hastily called town hall meeting. Interim FAMU President Larry Robinson said the stakes couldn’t be any higher for the troubled school:

“We’re in a fishbowl. This next 12 months, we just can’t afford for anyone  not to understand the implications of any actions they take with an adverse action on themselves, but the university as a whole," he said.

A formal notice from the accrediting group to the university detailing specifics of the charges won’t be released until sometime next week, but Robinson says he believes the one sure thing  guaranteeing a probation sanction is a part of the SACS rules that calls on schools to maintain “integrity.” And he says the university fell short of that after it was learned that 15 audits performed by the school’s former audit director Charles O’ Dour, contained missing and fraudulent information:

“We certainly don’t do audits that way anymore. We had an Ernst and Young team come in and look at that and we have a corrective action plan to address the audit process and the issues in the audit that were deemed incomplete.” 

The high profile hazing death of a band drum major didn’t help the school either. Nor did follow up investigations that revealed more than 100 non-students traveling with the band on the school’s dime. For that, SACS also noted FAMU failed to provide a safe environment for its students, and questioned the qualifications of people in administrative positions. Many people, including school officials, saw the sanction coming:

“What SACS does is look back over the course of a year. True, Florida A&M University is working hard to taking corrective action going forward.  We believe many of those actions will have positive impact. But the Southern Association is looking back at circumstances that unfolded over the past year,”  said University System Chancellor Frank Brogan.

Many of the problems cited by the accrediting group have already been or are in the process of being fixed. But whether the school’s efforts are enough will be determined next year.

“Our goal is to bring the school into compliance with the standards. We’re not into it for punishment or removal or anything. We just want to bring them in compliance," said the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools' Pamela Cravey.

Cravey says a probation sanction is rare, and that the school is still fully accredited but, "they just have some things to work on.”

The university’s new audit director, Richard Givens, comes from the state of Florida’s own audit office. And the school is instituting a top down review of its administration to make sure everyone’s academic credentials are in order. FAMU has instituted an anti-hazing agenda and is putting new policies for student travel in place. It will be visited by SACS in the Spring and the accrediting group will issue its decision next December.