The divide continues to expand between the Elmira Mangum administration and the students, faculty, and alumni of the FAMU School of Journalism and Graphic Communication.
Last week student reporters, J-School faculty, and alumni of the school pushed back when the FAMU Assistant Vice President for the Office of Communications Elise Durham urged the faculty senate to exclude the media from its meetings.
Durham wrote the following in a February 17 email to Faculty Senate President Bettye Grable and past Faculty Senate President Maurice Holder:
"As we work to enhance reputation management on campus, I’d like to make sure that we have the opportunity to function at internal meetings without the media’s presence.
"To my knowledge, the Faculty Senate meetings are considered internal personnel meetings and, so there really is no place for external media, including student media."
Grable, a journalism professor, called attention to the Government in the Sunshine Law which sets requirements for open meetings in the state.
“All I can say is based on my knowledge, FAMU is a state institution and as such, must abide by Florida’s In the Sunshine laws,” Grable said in a quote published by the Tallahassee Democrat.
FAMUan reporter TyLisa C. Johnson wrote that the FAMU “administration is trying to ban media, including The Famuan and Journey magazine, from covering Faculty Senate meetings.”
She added that: “This would be a violation of the state’s Sunshine Law, according to Barbara Peterson, CEO of the Tallahassee-based First Amendment Foundation…Pat Gleeson, general counsel to the Attorney General of Florida agreed with Petersen that the Faculty Senate meetings are open to the public.”
FAMU journalism alumna Lynn Hatter of WFSU began her story on the controversy by explaining that it was the latest in a line of public tensions between the Mangum administration and journalists.
“Florida A&M University is once again in the spotlight for how it deals with the state’s open government and meetings law,” Hatter reported.
Durham later claimed that she had been misunderstood.
“My perspective, which was buried in the Tallahassee Democrat story, is that if these meetings are to be open, they should be open to everyone,” Durham wrote in an op-ed for the Tallahassee Democrat and The FAMUan.
The op-ed by Durham op-ed didn’t explain why her February 17 email only spoke about holding faculty senate meetings “without the media’s presence” and failed to include any statement saying that they should be open to all media representatives.