Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Agnew fought hard to keep engineering college budget control at FAMU in 2007

FAMU President Elmira Mangum’s claim that the university didn’t previously control the budget for the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering (COE) has placed her in conflict with the Rattlers who know that isn’t true.

One FAMUan who understands that FAMU really did have budget control of the COE is Umi Selah (a.k.a. Phillip Agnew). He helped fight off an attempt to remove that budget control from FAMU when he was the student body president in 2007. 

On January 15, 2015, Mangum welcomed Agnew to campus as the keynote speaker for the FAMU Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation. She complimented him on his commitment to justice through his leadership of the activist group Dream Defenders.

But just four months later, Mangum gave her backing to a move that brought FAMU’s budget control at the COE to an end. Agnew announced last week that he doesn’t think the FAMU Board of Trustees (BOT) should renew Mangum’s contract, which is set to expire in 2017.

FAMU started controlling the core operating budget for the COE in 1987 after former FAMU President Frederick S. Humphries struck a deal with then-FSU President Bernie Sliger. The agreement was that would get FAMU control of the budget in exchange for him agreeing to support Innovation Park as the building site for the COE.

In 2007, then-FSU President T.K. Wetherell tried to get the Florida Legislature to move the budget control to FSU. Agnew and the other members of the FAMU BOT responded with a vote to reaffirm the policy that FAMU should be fiscal agent/budget manager for the COE. The BOT then issued a press release stating that: “During an emergency meeting of the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees Monday (April 9), board members decided in a unanimous vote to let Florida legislators know they want the fiscal control of the joint FAMU-FSU College of Engineering to remain with FAMU.”

An April 4, 2007 article in The FAMUan covered Agnew’s reaction to the FSU President’s plan:

"I feel that this a step towards FSU taking control of the E-school, but this is not the move that will ensure it," said Phillip B. Agnew, 21.

Agnew said the switching of financial obligation to FSU was a wake-up call for FAMU. "This is a sign for us to wake up and assert ourselves," said Agnew, a senior business administration student from Chicago. "We don't want to make this the death of our University and union with FSU."…

"This is a blatant attempt by T.K. Wetherell and the legislature to take the engineering school and we will not stand for it," Agnew said.
House Policy & Budget Council Chair Ray Sansom and Rep. Curtis Richardson succeeded in getting their chamber to put the $10.4M COE appropriation back in FAMU’s general revenue budget. Sen. Alfred “Al” Lawson convinced the Florida Senate to do the same.

But in 2015, a new Joint College of Engineering Governance Council started to claim that it is in charge of the COE budget. At a May 20, 2015 meeting, the Joint Council unanimously voted to move the $12.9M COE core operating budget from FAMU to FSU.

Mangum supported those changes and didn’t let the FAMU BOT know before those things happened. The FSU representatives and Board of Governors (BOG) Chancellor Marshall Criser, III can now just outvote FAMU on budget decisions.

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.

A number of FAMUans have been misled by that statement. But it’s good that FAMU still has individuals like Agnew who actually know the facts.

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