Monday, September 21, 2015

FAMU journalism professor takes Mangum to task for “bullying” student newspaper

On Friday, a member of the FAMU School of Journalism and Graphic Communication faculty took President Elmira Mangum to task for “bullying” the campus student newspaper.

Valerie D. White, an associate professor of journalism, wrote a stinging opinion column in response to Mangum’s “Open Letter to the Editor of The Famuan” that was posted on the University's revamped news blog on September 10. Mangum wrote the open letter after The FAMUan Editor-in-Chief Reggie Mizell wrote a September 3 opinion column that criticized her for excluding student editors from the planning process for a new “official newspaper” at the university. The editor-in-chief of Journey Magazine, TyLisa Johnson, was a contributor to the opinion piece.

According to Mizell, Mangum told a group of student editors about the new publication after the Thursday, August 27 Legacy Banquet that honored all the living FAMU presidents. He said the president told them that:  “It won’t be the FAMUAN. It’ll be a real newspaper, like the Wall Street Journal.”

White blasted the way that Mangum treated the student editors in the open letter response.

“The decision to write an open letter to a student was poor strategy, especially when the students tried to reach Mangum for additional comment,” White said. “The University immediately provided comment to an outside entity, while the students were ignored. We don’t treat our students that way, especially when the open letter is laced with fact errors. In addition, Mizell is a senior. This open letter in its erroneous context can damage his career. That is not ‘Excellence with Caring.’”

But White directed her toughest criticism at what she said was the administration’s decision to give The FAMUan “a directive” to publish the open letter from Mangum.

“The letter was sent to The Famuan with a directive to publish it. That is not how this works. It is bullying, the same action Mangum accuses the board of trustees of doing,” White wrote.

Back on August 23, the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Mangum had told the newspaper that “she felt ‘bullied’ during” an August 11 conference call with the FAMU Board of Trustees (BOT). According to the Democrat, BOT Chairman Rufus Montgomery raised his voice during the call while telling her not to interrupt him.  

White, who was named 2005-2006 “FAMU Teacher of the Year” is a former faculty adviser to The FAMUan. While she served as the adviser to the student publication, The FAMUan received the “Best Newspaper” award from the Black College Communication Association in 2004. White was also awarded the Distinguished Adviser Award at the 2007 College Media Advisers Annual Convention.

Read the full opinion column by White here

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