Elmira Mangum is out as president of Florida's only public Historically Black University, Florida A&M. FAMU's board voted 10-1 in favor of a plan that requires Mangum to step down immediately.
FAMU’s board insists it didn’t fire the president, but in a 10-1 vote, it approved a plan paving the way for her to leave the presidency immediately. Trustees Harold Mills and Craig Reed did not vote. Interim Student Body President Jaylen Smith cast the lone no vote.
Prior to being named FAMU President, Mangum served as Cornell University’s Vice President of Budget and Planning. Her doctoral thesis was on the topic of leadership at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. One of her first tests as president of FAMU was the proposed split of the FAMU-Florida State University College of Engineering. The two sides later came to a governance agreement that FAMU stakeholders claimed gave too much away to FSU. Mangum later angered her board when she transferred financial oversight of the engineering college to Florida State.
Some of Mangum’s hires were also problematic. For example, she hired a convicted felon in her communications office. Her first athletics director, Kellen Winslow, fired the head football coach days before homecoming. Mangum also ran into problems with the state University system governing board over her work plan for FAMU. And her clash with FAMU’s former Board Chairman was so ugly, neither would meet with the other without attorney’s president. But when a different group of FAMU trustees tried to fire Mangum in October of 2015—it failed. And students marched to the capitol in protest. This time around, there were far fewer students. But they were no less vocal. Student Senate President Brandon Johnson blamed trustees for ignoring them.
“Last night we had a town hall with our student government… we sent you an invite, and you guys were eating stake and potatoes."
Mangum did have some successes. FAMU was recently named the top public HBCU in the nation by U.S. News and World Report. It’s also seen an increase in fundraising and national science foundation grants. Mangum spoke to reporters after the vote.
"I feel good about what I’ve done at Florida A&M," she said. "I think students are more focused on completion, and I think the institution, nationally is in a better place.”
Shortly after Mangum’s departure, Larry Robinson was named interim president. It’s his third time helming FAMU. Robinson first served as interim in 2007 and was charged with cleaning up scores of audit findings that threated the school’s accreditation. He came back again in 2012 after school president James Ammons resigned in the wake of the hazing death of a band member that caused a similar crisis with the school’s accreditation body. Whether the third time will be the charm for Robinson is not known.
"It’s a very serious job you’ve bestowed upon me, and I accept that wholeheartedly with the understanding we’re going to work together to advance the mission of Florida A&M University.”
But Robinson says he knows it won’t be easy. Mangum’s departure has caused rifts between school faculty, alumni and students—vital relationships Robinson will have to work to repair. And he still has to be approved by the state university system governing board.. Meanwhile, FAMU’s board is adding another more student voice to its special committee on presidential leadership in response to criticism.