One of those documents was a copy of a June 2 email that Vice-Chairman Kelvin Lawson sent to Rufus, General Counsel Avery McKnight, and BOT Liaison Linda Barge-Miles. The email was entitled: “Fwd: President Mangum Letters of Support – Request” and contained two forwarded emails that were sent from FAMU Alumni Affairs staffers to officers of the FAMU National Alumni Association (NAA).
The second forwarded email didn’t have a clear date but was a follow-up message from Lee to the NAA Executive Board and chapter presidents. Lee said that he wanted to “clarify the email that was sent out earlier on my behalf.” He went on to say that: “I am requesting one letter of support for Dr. Mangum from Tommy Mitchell, President FAMU NAA, on behalf of the entire FAMU National Alumni Association. Separately, I am requesting letters of support for Dr. Mangum from each FAMU NAA Chapter President on behalf of their chapters...We are simply seeking letters of support from the NAA as Dr. Mangum moves toward her first Presidential evaluation by the FAMU Board of Trustees and the Florida Board of Governors. Please not that this is a request and is not mandatory in any way.”
Lawson asked Barge-Miles to share the two forwarded emails with Rick Givens, the FAMU vice president of audit & compliance.
“My question is – is it appropriate for someone in a leadership capacity at the University to solicit support for the President as we are about to enter into the evaluation process,” Lawson wrote. “Given this persons position, it would appear they could have un intended influence on the tone and feedback received in these letters.”
The compilation of documents that the BOT chairman gave to the Special Committee on Governance in June didn’t state what answer Givens gave to Lawson. But Rufus did reference the NAA in his individual evaluation of Mangum in July.
“It’s my understanding that members of the FAMUNAA did not respond favorably to requests to provide recommendation letters for this evaluation,” the BOT chairman wrote. “While Dr. Mangum has forged relationships with prominent alumni by extension of her office, she would be well served by an effort to court broader groups of alumni who want to contribute in various ways. We all want our president to succeed.”
The rift between Mangum and the NAA leadership has continued to grow since July. Back during that month, Mitchell expressed the concerns that many alumni had about Mangum’s support of a decision to shift the $12,996,539 core operating budget of the College of Engineering (COE) from FAMU to Florida State University. The NAA later declined an invitation to join a group of state lawmakers who held a press conference to request the resignation of the current FAMU BOT chairman, who is a big critic of Mangum.
The Mangum administration has now started making dramatic changes to Alumni Affairs that Mitchell says are harmful to the NAA. The university recently laid off Hill and Regina Gardner, assistant director of accounting.
Mitchell said that Gardner and Hill carried out “duties that are crucial to the FAMU NAA accomplishing its mission and goals for this academic year with success” and added that the position cuts were “an unwarranted setback for Florida A&M University’s greatest arm of support.”
The new assistant vice-president position that Lee began working in back in May is staying despite those big cuts to Alumni Affairs. The BOT chairman has questioned the process that led to the creation of that $130,000 per year job.