Monday, October 19, 2015

FAMU chair, vice-chair say $12.9M COE budget shift to FSU should be reversed

FAMU Board of Trustees Vice-Chairman Kelvin Lawson
On October 9, the Florida State University Board of Trustees (BOT) voted to approve a $90,000 bonus and a 7.4 percent raise for President John Thrasher.

One of the biggest accomplishments that Thrasher made this year was getting the $12.9M core operating budget of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering (COE) moved from FAMU to FSU after 28 years. That change was made without a vote of approval from the FAMU BOT and was supported by FAMU President Elmira Mangum.

Yesterday, the FAMU BOT voted against awarding Mangum a bonus for her performance during her first year as president. Vice-Chairman Kelvin Lawson, who made the motion, said that the COE budget shift to FSU was a problem that Mangum needed to work to fix.

“I would like to see us make an active pitch to regain budget authority for the College of Engineering,” Lawson said at the Sunday meeting.

“I would ask that the administration take that as a ‘To Do’ moving forward,” he added.

At a July 21 FAMU BOT committee meeting, Mangum tried to downplay the seriousness of the loss of the $12.9M COE budget by claiming that FAMU didn’t have control over that money during the years that those operating dollars were at the university.

“My opinion would be that the dean controlled the expenditures of the College of Engineering; FAMU kept account of them,” Mangum said on July 21.

But former President Frederick S. Humphries came before the BOT on Sunday and said that FAMU did control the COE budget after he struck a deal with FSU President Bernie Sliger in 1987. He said that the deal gave FAMU control of the budget in exchange for him agreeing to support Innovation Park as the building site for the COE. Humphries told the BOT that the deal was made final by the 1987 “Memorandum of Agreement.”

The new Joint College of Engineering Governance Council has now started making the decisions on the $12.9M core COE operating budget in the year 2015. It is formed in a way that could let FSU and the Board of Governors (BOG) chancellor simply vote together in order to make sure that FSU gets its way on all the big budget decision because the BOG chancellor is the tie-breaking vote on the Joint College of Engineering Governance Council.

That appears to already be happening based on a new piece of information that Mangum shared with the FAMU BOT on Sunday.

Back at a May 20 meeting, the Joint Council voted to move the $12.9M COE core operating budget to FSU. Mangum told FAMU trustees that it was clear to her at the May 20 meeting that even if the entire FAMU delegation had voted to keep the budget at FAMU, the majority of the Joint Council members would have just out-voted them and moved the budget to FSU anyway.

Mangum claimed that getting the agreement to have the deanship line rotated to FAMU was the best that she could do.

“We agreed to rotate,” she said. “We had two choices: we could agree to rotate or the budget was going to get moved.”

FAMU BOT Chairman Rufus Montgomery responded by repeating a point that Lawson made at an August 5 committee meeting. At that meeting, Lawson said that “Section 3: Comprehensive Standards” of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) rules could give the Board of Trustees a way to challenge what the Joint Council did.  “Section 3” includes a rule that says the policy-making job of the board of a school must remain distinct from the job of the administration to oversee the execution of policies.

“What was done in the Joint Council was a setting of policy for both schools…We do have recourse on this issue if we choose as a board,” Lawson said on August 5.

The chairman reminded the full BOT of that point on Sunday and said that if FAMU didn’t do something about it, then it could happen again.

“You have to talk to your board and tell them what’s going on,” he said. “Policy belongs to the board. Policy decisions are not made by the administration. They are made by the board. My concern is that moving forward that this type of action could be taken again.”

Correction: Earlier stories on Rattler Nation incorrectly stated that the 1987 agreement put FSU in charge of the COE administration and selection of the dean and that was why all the deans since then have been tenured at FSU. The 1987 agreement actually said that: “The presidents shall appoint the dean on the advice of the Joint Management Council based on the recommendations of a faculty search committee composed of an equal number of faculty members from the two universities.” Corrections will be made throughout this site. 

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