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FAMU Spokeswoman Tries To Limit Media At Faculty Senate Meetings


Florida A&M University is once again in the spotlight for how it deals with the state's open government and meetings law. The university's chief spokeswoman recently sent an email to members of the faculty senate,  to ask for "assistance with managing the media at Faculty Senate meetings."

The email was sent Wednesday, February 17 to Bettye Grable, the Faculty Senate and Maurice Holder a faculty senator. The message is from FAMU's Vice President of Communications Elise Durham.

She writes:

"As we work to enhance reputation management on campus, I’d like to make sure that we have the opportunity to function at internal meetings without the media’s presence.  To my knowledge, the Faculty Senate meetings are considered internal personnel meetings and, so there really is no place for external media, including student media.  It’s important for faculty and others to express their true feelings and concerns without the worry that something they say may show up in the media.  And really, our internal proceedings should not be viewed as a source for stories." 

According to the First Amendment Foundation's Barbara Peterson, Faculty Senate meetings at the state's public universities fall under the state's Sunshine Law. Peterson says since the faculty senates serve an advisory role to presidents and vote on recommendations to the administration, their meetings are considered open to media. Meeting rules are covered in Chapter 286 of state law.

Durham was hired in October and came from Morehouse College. She told the Tallahassee Democrat she doesn't "see why it’s a news story.”

According to the university's announcement of her hire, Durham "is a two-time Emmy and five-time Telly award-winning [former] journalist and public relations professional with more than 20 years of experience."

The school writes she spent almost 15 years in television news, working in Tallahassee, Jacksonville, Houston, and Atlanta.