Monday, June 11, 2012

1997: UF president calls Herbert an Oreo

Back during a Christmas party he hosted on Dec. 16, 1997, University of Florida (UF) President John V. Lombardi called University of North Florida President Adam Herbert an “Oreo.”

When one guest asked him what the Nabisco cookie reference meant, Lombardi said he’d used the term to describe how Herbert, then an applicant for the chancellorship of the State University System of Florida (SUS), was “black on the outside and white on the inside.”

Lombardi actually used the “Oreo” term as a compliment. He said Herbert was a potential chancellor who would be able to work with whites in a very effective manner.

Herbert, who did become chancellor, recommended that Lombardi keep his job despite the remark. He then turned his attention to his Three Tier Plan proposal. The chancellor wanted FAMU to be a bottom tier “comprehensive” university that would focus mainly on teaching undergraduate students. FAMU President Frederick S. Humphries and then Provost James H. Ammons led the fight to create a special “Comprehensive/Doctoral” category that permitted the university to continue pursuing its Ph.D. expansion ambitions.

Today, Herbert’s name continues to circulate as a possible replacement for Ammons, FAMU’s current president. The argument being used by those interested in Herbert seems to focus on Ammons’ unpopularity with the Florida Board of Governors (BOG). It is being said that FAMU needs a president who can get along with them.

A number of FAMU trustees have anonymously joined the chorus of voices saying that FAMU’s president should be liked by the SUS office. In Ammons’ 2010-2011 evaluation, his lowest score came for his relationship with Chancellor Frank Brogan and the BOG.

BOG Chairman Dean Colson has stepped up his attempts to influence the future of FAMU’s presidency by applauding the Board of Trustees after its vote of no confidence in Ammons last week.

Herbert found out the hard way that even though he was liked enough to be called an “Oreo,” he still wasn’t respected. The chancellor did everything he was told to do from pushing the Three Tier Plan to endorsing Gov. Jeb Bush’s “One Florida” plan against affirmative action. But Bush didn’t lift a finger to stop the Florida State University (FSU) alumni legislators who worked to disband the Board of Regents and its chancellor position. FSU alumni were upset at Herbert and the regents for refusing to approve a medical school for their alma mater.

The trustees leading the charge against Ammons don’t seem to have learned anything from the Herbert years. Individuals such as Rufus Montgomery, Bill Jennings, Karl White, and Torey Alston appear to think that if they go along with what the governor’s office and BOG want, they will get more respect. They regularly brag about how much political influence they have but they haven’t brought any big private financial donations or new legislative budget items to FAMU. None of them realize how dispensable they are to Florida’s top political officeholders any more than Herbert did.

FAMUans can’t afford to let their university’s future be driven by a set of people who are viewed as nothing more than tools for powers outside the university.

No comments: