TALLAHASSEE — The Florida A&M University Board of Trustees registered its displeasure with president James Ammons through an 8-4 vote of no confidence during a retreat June 6-7.
The Associated Press reported that the no-confidence vote came Thursday over Ammons’ handling of the hazing death of Marching 100 band drum major Robert Champion. His leadership and management of one of the nation’s premier historically black universities were also called into question.
Ammons said he is not stepping down and he promised to deal with the problems. He was hired in 2007 and signed a five-year contract extension last year.
“I hear you loudly and clearly,” Ammons told the board, according to a report in the Tallahassee Democrat. “I understand there are some measures that I have to take as president of this university to fix things and I am going to fix them.”
The board had previously rejected a call from Gov. Rick Scott to fire Ammons, with chairman Solomon Badger saying trustees “will stand firm against outside influence regardless of how well intended.”
A majority of the trustees had voted in December, however, to reprimand Ammons but there were not enough votes to force him into an administrative leave, as some board members wanted.
Bill Jennings, a former board chairman, proposed the more recent no-confidence vote.
“There has been a breakdown in the leadership structure of the university as well as the internal controls,” Jennings said. “I have lost confidence in his ability to lead us through this crisis.”
Belinda Shannon, who did not support the earlier reprimand, told Ammons this time that she questioned whether he possessed the leadership qualities needed for the job.
Narayan Persaud, who represents the faculty on the board, accused the president of “poor management.”
Badger, Spurgeon McWilliams, Kelvin Lawson and Marjorie Turnbull rejected the no-confidence vote.
Ammons went into the retreat with a plan to deal with hazing that includes appointing an anti-hazing special assistant to the president and a compliance officer in the music department reporting directly to that official.
A new structure has been proposed for the Marching 100 which was suspended last November following Champion’s hazing death. Proposals include requiring all band members to be full-time students and for practice to be limited to 20 hours a week and supervised by music department staff. Also, a new band director will be appointed.
A university statement said Tuesday the anti-hazing plan was brought to the board only for information and for input and was not an agenda item that needed action.
A criminal investigation into Champion’s death has led to felony hazing charges against
11 band members and misdemeanors charges against two band members.