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News Clips 03/22/2013
EDITORIAL: Surprise decision sets FAMU back
Source: Sun Sentinel, 03/21/13
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Florida A&M University has a bad habit of getting in the way of its own success. What other explanation is there for last week's decision by Solomon Badger, the university's board chairman, to suspend the school's search for a new president?
A committee was supposed to begin interviewing candidates this week, but Badger said those efforts were now on hold. The announcement surprised many, including fellow board members, who thought the school would be well on its way to choosing a replacement for Larry Robinson, FAMU's interim president. "The search is suspended until we get through some of the critical issues FAMU is currently facing," Badger said in a press release.
FAMU remains on probation — its second in five years — thanks to problems associated with the famed Marching 100 band and the hazing death of one of the band's drum majors, Robert Champion. The university has until December to correct its problems or risk losing its accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
The university has other problems, too. Its graduation rate is appalling — only 40 percent of students graduate in six years. The school also has too many "profile admits," students who basically are ill-prepared for a college education. Add the probation, and you have enough issues to give the most qualified university president candidate pause.
Robinson's low-key demeanor and attention to detail, built on a background in chemistry and the environmental sciences, has helped. Previously the university's provost, he was the perfect choice to lead the school out of its current troubles as interim president. But now he's the perceived front-runner, thanks to Badger's unilateral decision and the praise he lavished on Robinson, who isn't a candidate for the top job. "I have confidence in him," Badger said. "I can speak for me. He and that team are up there doing great work."
While well-meaning, Badger's remarks are unfortunate. They cast a taint of favoritism over the presidential search process that could cause the school to lose out on worthwhile applicants from outside the university who think the suspension is nothing more than a ruse to give another FAMU insider a clear path to the presidency.
If all this sounds familiar, that's because it is. James Ammons was the last president chosen to lead the university, in large part due to his longtime association with FAMU. He managed to get the school off probation, but ultimately stepped down after the university was slapped with another SACS probation following Champion's hazing death.
It's hard not to like Robinson. Not only is he working to get the school off probation, but he's sticking to an agreement he made with the board of directors not to seek the top job as a condition for taking the post temporarily. Badger's actions are another story entirely.
The suspension has thrown the selection of a new president into doubt. If FAMU hopes to maintain its credibility, it should keep its word that the suspension of the presidential search is just that, and not a facade to give an inside candidate the leg up.