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FAMU Trustees Worry Contract Disputes May Doom A Mangum Presidency

Marjorie Turnbull

Florida A&M University trustees are still trying to iron out a contract with the school's president-select Elmira Mangum. 

Trustees met Friday to approve several changes to the school’s contract offer—but the process has some wondering if Mangum will still want the job when negotiations are complete.

Several members of FAMU’s board of trustees take issue with the $425,000 salary initially offered to Elmira Mangum as part of a three-year contract. That’s $84,000 more than what former President James Ammons made at the time he resigned several years ago. Ammons had prior experience as a university president at North Carolina Central University—something Mangum, presently Cornell University’s Vice President of Budget—does not.

But on Friday, trustee Rufus Montgomery speculated that if she quits or doesn’t have her contract renewed when it’s up, FAMU could be on the hook for millions.

"If she doesn’t work out we have to pay her a minimum of $2.5 million. And then if she decides to stick around on campus--I’m not assuming failure-- for, say, another five years, we’d be in the hole another $2.6 million. So we could end up spending $5 to 6 million,” Montgomery said.

That’s because, as a condition of becoming president, Mangum will automatically become a tenured professor and stay on FAMU’s payroll until she decides to leave.

But the prospect of potentially losing Mangum due to disputes over what to pay her had other trustees like Marjorie Turnbull worried. Turnbull says the prospect of renegotiating Mangum’s contract puts the university on shaky ground.

If we do not come to a decision on this presidency, Florida A&M University will have difficulty in recovering from this. We will never be able to hire a president. There is no one out there who will be willing to take a look at us," Turnbull said.    

The presidential search that led to Mangum's selection took more than a year as FAMU dealt with the aftermath of the hazing death of a drum major and accreditation woes partly due to the hazing and a series of bad audits. The school was blasted in news headlines, and its recent history has found the school lurching from one crisis to another.

Trustees left Mangum’s $425,000 salary intact but removed other parts of her compensation package, such as a $1,000 monthly car allowance. The contract now goes back to Mangum and her attorney. If she rejects it, FAMU trustees may have to go back to the drawing board to find a new president.