COMPILED FROM WIRE REPORTS
Florida A&M University Provost Larry Robinson will take over the duties of president of the school following a unanimous vote Monday of the university trustees, which an hour earlier had accepted the immediate resignation of President James Ammons.
Under scrutiny since the hazing death of Marching ‘100’ drum major Robert Champion, Ammons stepped down Monday instead of waiting until October as he proposed last week when he first tendered his resignation to the FAMU Board of Trustees. Ammons had planned on staying on for 90 days, but instead will go on sabbatical and then return to the university as a tenured professor.
The board appointed Robinson to replace Ammons, but will return in August to decide whether Robinson stays on officially as interim president until a permanent president is found.
“I think FAMU right now needs immediate stability,” said Trustee Marissa West, the FAMU student body president. “I don’t think we can afford to be left vulnerable and I think we need to ensure a very smooth transition in the upcoming days, months, weeks.”
Champion, 26, died on a band charter bus in November after the university’s renowned Marching 100 band traveled from its Tallahassee campus to Orlando to participate in the annual “Battle of the Bands” and the Florida Classic football game between FAMU and Bethune-Cookman University. Officials determined he died after being hazed.
Thirteen band members have been charged in Champion’s death. Of those, 11 face felony hazing charges and could face up to six years in prison. Two others were charged with misdemeanors.
Still getting paid
As part of the termination agreement, Ammons will receive a 25 percent bonus for his performance during the 2010-11 school year based on an outside evaluation. Ammons will also receive a 5 percent bonus for meeting mutually agreed upon goals for the 2011-12 academic year. As president, Ammons’ base salary was about $325,000.
Trustees urged Robinson to move quickly to address concerns raised over the past several months. In the wake of Champion’s death, the band has been suspended for at least the next academic year. The university’s athletics department is also facing a major budget deficit.
FAMU National Alumni Association President Tommy Mitchell believes Ammons was pushed out. Mitchell explained that there seemed to be a campaign within the board to “get rid” of Ammons.
“He was forced out,” he said. “He didn’t want to go, in spite of all of the votes of no-confidence.”
Mitchell also expressed concern that the media has overly criticized FAMU. He said that other universities who have faced or are facing similar issues have not gotten as much negative attention and that he felt many of the university’s “outstanding” accomplishments have been overlooked.
Meanwhile, FAMU students and young alumni are working to show the public how they feel about their alma mater. They are using social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter to show their support for Ammons and their belief in FAMU’s future.
The slogans “I believe in FAMU” and “FAMU Forever” are showing up on the Internet and are now being made into T-shirts. FAMUans are also posting photos of themselves wearing FAMU shirts and posting videos reflecting the university’s many attributes.
Kanya Stewart of the Capital Outlook and Michael Peltier of the News Service of Florida contributed to this report.