Cummings-Martin turned Alumni Affairs around and fixed its broken relationship with the FAMU National Alumni Association (NAA). She and her staffers provided critical services such as managing financial transactions, processing memberships, and helping to coordinate NAA elections.
But it looks like the Office of Alumni Affairs is being politicized all over again by the current FAMU administration.
FAMU President Elmira Mangum has never gotten along well with the current NAA leadership. The NAA Executive Board urged the FAMU Board of Trustees to consider then-Interim President Larry Robinson for the permanent presidency during the 2014 presidential search instead of endorsing Mangum’s candidacy. It also passed a “no confidence” vote in her first athletic director, Kellen Winslow, who later resigned.
Since that time, Mangum has begun to make a number of big changes to Alumni Affairs. She hired John Michael Lee for a new $130,000 “assistant vice-president for alumni affairs and university relations” job earlier this year. An April press release called him the “New Head of Alumni Affairs.”
The decision to choose Lee as the “New Head of Alumni Affairs” was suspicious because one of the most important jobs for any university’s top alumni affairs official is communication. Cummings-Martin is a former news anchor who proved that she was one of the best communicators in the city of Tallahassee. But Lee’s poor writing recently became the subject of a discussion at a FAMU Board of Trustees (BOT) meeting.
At a June BOT committee meeting, Chairman Rufus Montgomery said that he was baffled by the writing problems that he saw in a November 8, 2014 email from Lee despite the fact that Lee has a Ph.D. degree. The email from Lee criticized a number of actions that the BOT had taken.
“It just baffles me why a person takes this type of umbrage with the Board of Trustees but doesn’t get their spelling correct or their grammar correct,” the chairman said. “I mean he lectures us here, talks about protocol, talks about petty politics, and questions: I’d like to caution the Board, can’t spell ‘legislature’ or ‘statutes.’”
The rift between Mangum and the NAA leadership has continued to grow. Back in July, NAA President Tommy 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 even more dramatic changes to Alumni Affairs that Mitchell says are harmful to the NAA. The university recently laid off Regina Gardner, assistant director of accounting, and Brandon Hill, coordinator of alumni engagement and membership services.
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.”
Mangum affirmed her support of those layoffs in a letter she sent to Mitchell on September 18.
The decision to hire Lee to be the “New Head of Alumni Affairs” and give him a higher rank in the division than Cummings-Martin was already a big insult. But now the Mangum administration has taken it even further by getting rid of two of Cummings-Martin’s essential staffers while keeping the useless $130,000 position for Lee, who was one of Mangum’s most vocal defenders before he was hired.
The unprofessional treatment of Cummings-Martin appears to be a result of what looks like an increasingly politicized battle that Mangum is waging against the current FAMU National Alumni Association leadership.