By Gayle Andrews
Dean Colson, the Chairman of Florida’s state university system Board of Governors congratulated 8 Florida A& M University Board of Trustees for following his directive. Last week, Colson wrote a terse letter to the BOT demanding that FAMU President Dr. James Ammons be held “accountable.” Well, a majority of the board did just that by following Colson’s demand, essentially saying Ammons had not done enough.
Ammons, in his usual stoic manner, said he got the message and would continue to work hard to improve the university. Many Alumni commented on how it took a certain type of person to sit through two days of that board meeting. But Ammons knew what he signed up for, after all leading FAMU is in a genre all its own.
The Robert Champion hazing tragedy has plagued the nation’s top HBCU for seven months. And interestingly enough BOG Chairman Colson has a great deal of experience with this kind of horror but has a whole different approach to prescribing directives to university presidents, especially FAMU.
Colson served on the board of trustees of the University of Miami for 10 years when UM student Chad Meredith died in what a jury said was a fraternity hazing episode in 2001. Meredith had a .13 blood alcohol level when he and two leaders of Kappa Sigma, the fraternity he was pledging tried to swim across Lake Osceola. The fraternity members did not help Meredith when he flailed in the water and cried out for help. They made it but Chad drowned 34 feet from shore.
The Florida legislature passed the Chad Meredith anti hazing law in 2005, while Colson was Chairman of the UM board of trustees. Colson’s chastising, of the FAMUU BOT and Ammons, is directed where Rick Scott tells him to direct it. And he seems to have forgotten the horror of hazing and its ability to derail a university mission. Apparently, the accountably question eluded him when it came to challenging the leader of his alma mater, under such grim circumstances. Maybe it just didn’t occur to him that someone should be held “accountable.”
FAMU Trustee Dr. Spurgeon McWilliams called Governor Rick Scott out at the last meeting. He said Scott was interfering again and dictating to board members. He was right. Scott is still angry about thousands of FAMU students who marched on the governor’s mansion to keep him from meddling with FAMU. Scott loves to kick the ant hill. He is still smarting over his meeting shortly thereafter with Ammons, former State Senator Al Lawson and trustee member Marjorie Turnbull where he tried to force Ammons to “ take a paid leave “ That didn’t work at all.
Ammons efforts to root out hazing while maintaining the university mission has been hampered by the piling on of investigations that have nothing to do with Robert Champions death. Rick Scott uses FDLE as if it were the secret police that he sics on those who defy him. The Florida Supreme Court is having that experience right now.
FAMU was on the verge of collapse when Ammons took over. It’s amazing that he has managed to restore accreditation to many of the schools, present three consecutive years of clean audits while maintaining the university status as the nation’s top HBCU and one of 15 of the most popular universities in the country.
Rick Scott is so unpopular it’s remarkable that Colson and certain trustee members follow the man and still hold their heads up. But then again Scott doesn’t follow the rules and of course the rules are always different for FAMU.