[Tallahassee, FL] Sometimes, even governors don’t get their way.
Even though Gov. Rick Scott pushed and prodded for the suspension of Florida A&M University (FAMU) president Dr. James Ammons, the school’s Board of Trustees decided not to suspend Ammons while multiple high profile investigations play out.
Ammons also refused to voluntarily suspend himself after a personal meeting from Scott (FAMU student protestors returned the favor and personally met Scott at the Governor’s Mansion and offered a sizable rebuttal).
“I believe it would have been in the best interest of Florida A&M University for President Ammons to step aside until all of these investigations are completed,” said Scott on Monday. “However, we have a process in Florida for the administration of the State University System, and that process has been followed.”
And the governor appears to be letting the Trustees’ decision stand without any interference or further debate, despite the disagreement.
“I will abide by the decision made by the Florida A&M University Board of Trustees,” Scott said.
Gov. Scott asked the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to investigate, and in turn, FDLE asked FAMU to not fire band director Julian White or expel any student while the investigation was underway.
Which is why Scott’s push to get Ammons out of the way was being viewed as counterproductive by the school’s alumni.
On Monday, FAMU Alumni Association President Tommy Mitchell asked for patience and for the investigators to have time to do their job.
“The Florida A & M National Alumni Association wants the complete story told and all the facts to be released,” Mitchell was quoted as saying during a press conference. “No new evidence other than a medical examiner’s report has been made public. Investigations being performed by the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement, and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office are incomplete, while other non law enforcement agency investigations are in progress or pending.”
Gov. Scott asked for, but did not receive, Ammons’ suspension
Mitchell was also critical of Scott for his actions, going so far as to say that the governor may have violated the Florida Constitution by trying to directly influence the Board of Trustees. At the press conference, Mitchell read excerpt of a warning letter sent to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on College.
“The governing board is free from undue influence from political, religious or other external bodies, and protects the institute from such influence,” said Mitchell, reading an excerpt from the letter.
Mitchell is concerned that interference could “jeopardize the accreditation of the university, as well as its ability to provide federal financial aid to its students.”
The school, Ammons and Scott have been front page news for weeks over the hazing death of Robert Champion, a drum major with FAMU’s famed Marching “100″ band. Champion’s death was ruled a homicide after an autopsy was performed by the Orange-Osceola Medical Examiner’s Office.
The medical examiner’s report concluded that Champion’s death was “the result of hemorrhagic shock due to soft tissue hemorrhage, incurred by blunt force trauma sustained during a hazing incident.”
According to the governor, there are also fresh allegations of financial improprieties (the school has a history in this area). Scott, apparently, had had enough and was looking for a change in the school’s leadership. If it was his decision alone, Ammons would already have been out the door.
But it is not, so Ammons is staying.
“The FAMU Board of Trustees has already publicly reprimanded Dr. Ammons,” said Scott. “This week, I learned of reports of at least one child molestation case that took place on campus, an incident Dr. Ammons told me in my office he was not made aware of until months after its occurrence. Based on all of these facts, I merely suggested it would be wise for Dr. Ammons to step aside until these investigations are completed.”
Suggested? Wise? Those are the words that sparked Mitchell and the alumni to call interference on Scott.
Throughout all of this chaos, Scott – certainly aware of the political and racial implications of appearing to hard target a predominately African-American institution – is trying to keep the political fire from getting out of control.
The governor was quick to say that, “I immediately called on all Universities throughout the state to examine their hazing and harassment policies and requested that the state’s eleven public university presidents also remind their students, faculty and staff of how detrimental hazing can be.”
By: Mark Christopher/Sunshine Slate
Lead image: FAMU
Florida A&M University