With his bosses censuring him twice in six months, Mr. Ammons should have gotten the message that it is time for him to step aside in favor of new leadership for the university. Instead, he is insisting on staying put, with this statement no doubt intended to assuage the concerns of trustees and others worried about the future of FAMU: “I hear you loudly and clearly. 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.”
But that is not good enough. Mr. Ammons’ administration clearly was not equal to the task of rooting out hazing, even though by all accounts, numerous reports of the practice had been made to university authorities. That the lack of leadership to curb hazing led to the death of a student is in itself reason for him to quit. Which is where the disconnect comes in.
The Board of Trustees was correct in giving short shrift to a recommendation by Gov. Rick Scott to suspend Mr. Ammons shortly after Mr. Champion’s death. “We will stand firm against outside influence regardless of how well intended,” the board chairman, Solomon Badger, said at the time.
But that position also requires that the board be fully prepared to get tough when necessary, representing as it does the trust of the people that its members will do what is best for FAMU. In censuring Mr. Ammons twice since December, the trustees have clearly signaled that they no longer believe he is the right person to take the university forward.
That was evident from the comments of most trustees when they were approving the no-confidence vote proposed by a former board chairman, Bill Jennings, at a June 6-7 retreat. “I have lost confidence in his ability to lead us through this crisis,” Mr. Jennings said of the president. Trustee Belinda Shannon said she doubts whether Mr. Ammons possesses the “unique set of attributes” needed for leadership of FAMU. Trustee Rufus Montgomery said he is concerned over wider problems at the university, including the state of FAMU’s finances. There is now “poor management” and FAMU’s leadership is “lost in a wilderness of errors,” said Narayan Persaud, who represents the FAMU faculty on the board.
The board must now be prepared to take the next step and replace Mr. Ammons if they mean what they are saying.
In any case, with his bosses saying such things about him, it is incomprehensible that Mr. Ammons thinks he can be an effective leader of this great Florida institution of higher learning.