Thursday, June 02, 2016

Online petitioners even more misinformed about FAMU-FSU engineering than Mangum

FAMU currently has a president who showed last July that she didn’t understand FAMU controlled the budget for the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering (COE) for 28 years.

Now, there are online petitioners who appear to know even less about the COE than she does.

A change.org petition started by a poster named “Rattlers4FAMU Real Rattlers” is asking the FAMU Board of Trustees (BOT) to grant President Elmira Mangum a contract extension. The petition attempts to support that request with a number of misinformed claims about the COE.

The petition claims that some individuals “are using what we call the ‘South Carolina Strategy’ to attempt to destroy FAMU. The SC Strategy includes…2. Closing high-impact programs in STEM (e.g. joint engineering school).”

The COE isn’t closed and isn’t in any danger of being closed by the state. The Florida Legislature and governor just approved a $13.4M budget for COE for 2016-2017.

But it doesn’t end there. The petition goes on to state that “she thwarted an attempt by FSU to steal FAMU's College of Engineering that they were allowed to tag on to in 1985 as a joint engineering college. Despite only being on the job for 24 hours, Dr. Mangum stood up for Rattlers everywhere and said no despite urgings by state Republicans and others to ‘cut a deal’ with FSU.”

The FAMU-FSU Institute for Engineering was created in 1982, not 1985, and admitted its first class of 35 students that year.

The petition is also wrong about what happened in 2014 when then- state Sen. John Thrasher pushed a budget amendment to split the COE. Thrasher never offered FAMU a “deal.” He just decided on his own to try and break up the COE without seeking the agreement of anyone at FAMU. Mangum did the right thing by publicly speaking out against that proposed split.

But Mangum did later “cut a deal” with Thrasher after he became the president of FSU that same year.

In May 2015, after the legislature created a new budget entity for the COE appropriation, a new Joint College of Engineering Governance Council decided that it was going to start calling the shots about what happens to the $12.9M COE budget instead of FAMU. Mangum went along with this. That has now made it possible for the FSU representatives and Board of Governors (BOG) Chancellor Marshall Criser, III to 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. But Trustee Kelvin Lawson disagreed because he understood that FAMU did control the COE budget after the deal that was struck in 1987 between FAMU President Frederick S. Humphries and FSU President Bernie Sliger.

Al Lawson, Kelvin’s brother, was a state representative back in 1987. He worked with FAMU alumna and state Sen. Carrie Meek, who was a role model for him, to move the annual appropriation for the COE into the FAMU general revenue line that year.

A press release by FAMU in 2015 claimed that the university was “gaining the responsibility of selecting the dean.” But that didn’t happen. The dean is still jointly appointed by presidents of both universities. Mangum and Thrasher have now jointly appointed a former FSU presidential candidate to be the new COE dean.

FAMU is now only part of the COE in name only. FSU and the chancellor can get their way on the budget by outvoting FAMU and the college is still in Innovation Park where FSU wanted it. Starting on July 1, the day-to-day affairs of the COE will managed by a dean wanted to be the president of FSU.   

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