One of the first issues before FAMU’s Presidential search committee is to decide what kind of candidate it wants to lead the 124-year-old institution. Many of FAMU’s former presidents have been alumni and all have had ties to academia, but some say it might be time for FAMU to look outside the box:
“I think we should reach for a river, for wherever the leadership is that can run the school. We won’t be able to restrict leadership to a given category. That’s my personal opinion," said FAMU Board Chairman Solomon Badger.
And longtime trustee Bill Jennings, has sat through two presidential searches. And he says the board needs to come to an agreement on the type of leader it wants.
“I think it’s important the board decide the type of president it wants, because when we went through a search it was disagreement each time, and I think that disagreement was not helpful to the university.”
The trend toward people outside of academia follows a statewide trend toward business leaders—a move spearheaded by Governor Rick Scott who has named people with business ties to several state agencies and the university system’s governing board, the Florida Board of Governors.
FAMU’s search committee also includes a member of the Board of Governors. It’s the first time the board has taken an active role in a university’s presidential search process and it’s doing the same thing with the University of Florida. FAMU trustees named an advisory committee which includes the state board chairman and former FAMU President Fred Humphries. Humphries led the school in its boom years and even has a building named after him. FAMU Board Chairman Solomon Badger says he reached out to Humphries for his input in the presidential search process.
“I think he has a wealth of information, he’s still around here, he’s still a strong advocate for the university and I think that he will serve very well in the role he’s been asked to do.”
FAMU has been criticized in the past for choosing leaders with close ties to the school. Those ties have prompted accusations of cronyism at the school. The board chose to address that criticism head on. In another move, it appointed longtime FAMU administrator and provost Larry Robinson to lead the school on a temporary basis. And Robinson, who has degrees outside of FAMU took on the insider/outsider commentary:
“I’m not an alumnus of this university, but I am a proud member of the alumni association. I came here from a corporate environment...Lockheed Martin, but I came here and felt right at home heading the environmental sciences institute. So I don’t feel like an insider/outsider I just feel at home and this is a great place to be.”
Robinson will earn $325,000 as interim president. He says he plans to focus on improving the school’s low graduation rate. The state board of governors recently criticized FAMU for admitting a large number of students who didn’t meet the state’s requirements. Robinson says the school is working to boost the quality of student it gets. And this year it has a smaller freshman class with a higher grade point average than in year’s past.