Monday, July 11, 2016

FAMU alumni lawmakers signal they’re preparing for future without Mangum

The Florida A&M University alumni in the state legislature have gone from being among the most vocal supporters of President Elmira Mangum to making no public defense of her now that the Board of Trustees (BOT) has set the course for her exit. This signals that the alumni lawmakers are preparing for a near future that won’t include her as the head of their alma mater.

Back on August 20, 2015, a number of FAMU alumni lawmakers sent a letter to the BOT that asked Chairman Rufus Montgomery, Mangum’s biggest critic on the board, to step down from his leadership position. The group included Rep. Alan Williams, Sen. Arthenia L. Joyner, Sen. Dwight Bullard, Rep. Mia Jones, Rep. Shevrin Jones, and Rep. Bobby Powell. They urged the BOT to remove him from the chairmanship if he refused to voluntarily resign.

Two months later, Trustees Kelvin Lawson and Robert Woody moved to terminate Mangum’s contract during an October 22, 2015 BOT meeting. Both motions narrowly failed and Montgomery resigned from the chairmanship the next day under pressure from FAMU students.

A Capital News Service story on October 29, 2015 reported that Joyner, who is also the Florida Senate Minority Leader, wanted all the trustees who tried to get rid of Mangum at that BOT meeting to leave the board.

“State Senator Arthenia Joyner is now calling on the trustees who voted to oust Mangum to themselves step down,” the report said.

But since that time, Joyner and the other alumni lawmakers have declined to fight against Gov. Rick Scott and the Florida Board of Governors’ (BOG) use of trustee appointments as a means to stack the deck against Mangum.

Joyner, as a member of the Florida Senate Higher Education Committee, voted in favor of a recommendation to confirm Woody’s BOT appointment on December 1, 2015.

Months later at the February 8, 2016 meeting of the Higher Education Committee, Joyner personally asked that former BOG member Matt Carter receive a favorable recommendation for confirmation to the BOT. Carter had made sarcastic public statements about Joyner and the group of alumni lawmakers in August 2015 after they called for Rufus’ removal as BOT chairman.

None of the other alumni lawmakers publicly opposed the appointments of Woody or Carter. 

In May, the alumni lawmakers made no public response when the BOG denied reappointment to Cleve Warren, the Mangum supporter who replaced Montgomery as chairman.

Lawson and Woody, the two trustees who led the attempt to fire Mangum in October 2015, led the discussion about her contract during the June 10, 2016 BOT meeting. Lawson, as the newly elected BOT chairman, presided over the conversation and Woody moved to “take no action” on the employment agreement. The BOT unanimously approved the motion.

Once again, the alumni lawmakers kept quiet. Mangum’s contract is set to expire on April 1, 2016 and she faces an uphill battle to secure an extension.

Joyner, Williams, and Jones will leave the legislature in November 2016 due to term limits. Their departures won’t be a setback to Mangum’s efforts to stay at FAMU because they and the other alumni lawmakers appear to have lost interest in saving her presidency.

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