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FAMU President Mangum Says She's More Determined To Lead After Failed Ouster


A member of Florida’s state university governing board is weighing in on the leadership disruptions at Florida A&M University. Now the school’s president is opening up about a failed attempt to fire her.

Florida A&M University President Elmira Mangum has only been on the job for a year and-a-half. She’s a first-time university president who came from an ivy league school. And she says she has nothing but good intentions when it comes to FAMU. But she admits, change, and transition to her new job, have been hard.

“I’m a naturally, introverted and shy person," she said." So things don’t come that easy when it comes to being out there, and being all in it. So I prefer is to have casual conversations, less formal conversations."

But for the past several months, she’s been under a microscope. Her administration has gone through turnover. Some of her initial hires, like NFL hall of famer Kellen Winslow—have already left. Her decision to hire a man with a felony to work in the office of communications has been widely criticized. There have also been discrepancies between information retrieved in public records requests, and what’s been said publicly. Mangum says people make mistakes, but she stands by her hires.

“And I’m glad they’re willing to stick through all the turmoil," she said of her hires. "...A communication error: People make mistakes. And there was no attempt to defraud or an attempt to mislead anyone with regard to communications.”

The administration has faced questions on how and when it informed the school’s trustees about the transfer of financial authority over its shared engineering school to Florida State University.

The president received her bachelor’s degree from an Historically Black College. She wrote a thesis  on leadership at HBCU’s. Yet she’s struggled with FAMU alumni, faculty and some members of her own board. The issues regarding Mangum have, in her words, swirled for months. But finally exploded two weeks ago when some board of trustees members moved to fire her. Mangum says she had expected something to happen at the meeting, but describes the attempted ouster as, "...shocked, surprised, disappointed and all of that. But not deterred."

The failed coup resulted in students rallying to support their president, and marching to the Capitol to demand the ouster of Board Chairman Rufus Montgomery. He stepped down as chair, but remains on the board. Trustee Spurgeon McWilliams, who cast votes against Mangum, has quit the board.

Mangum says the effort to fire her has made her more determined to succeed as President of Florida A&M University. But a recent editorial written by state university system Board of Governors member Alan Levine and posted in the Tallahassee Democrat, suggests many are losing patience with the school’s leadership struggles. Levine writes if something doesn’t change soon, the BOG may have to get involved. But Mangum believes it won’t and doesn’t have to come to that.

“I don’t think our leadership has failed, and that’s a word he used. I think we’re in the process of negotiating our different points of view on how to move FAMU forward. Because I think it’s all our objective to move our institution to a more positive place.”

Manum says there may be different strategies for moving the university forward, but doesn’t view the conflicting objectives of FAMU and the state board of governors as a failure in leadership.


*Editorial Note: Mangum spoke with a group of selected reporters, including this outlet. Audio was allowed, but video was not. In its invitation to reporters university officials said, "Individuals asked to attend were selected based on previous interview requests that the President and the Office of Communication wish to honor. This is by no means an effort to prohibit access to other reporters from the conversation with the President, but it is solely designed to ensure the most productive, orderly and respectful dialogue possible."

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Lynn Hatter is a Florida A&M University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. Lynn has served as reporter/producer for WFSU since 2007 with education and health care issues as her key coverage areas.  She is an award-winning member of the Capital Press Corps and has participated in the NPR Kaiser Health News Reporting Partnership and NPR Education Initiative. 

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