TALLAHASSEE (CBSMiami/NSF) – The future of Florida A&M University President Elmira Mangum remained in limbo Wednesday after the school’s board of trustees narrowly rejected a one-year extension of her contract.
Following a trustees’ decision in June to take no action on Mangum’s three-year contract, which is scheduled to expire April 1, the board renewed its debate Wednesday after an annual evaluation that was critical of her leadership.
In its evaluation of her leadership during the 2015-16 academic year, a solid majority of the 13-member board found the president did not meet expectations on four of the 11 goals, including her relationship with trustees.
David Lawrence, a trustee and former Miami Herald publisher, said his “greatest concern” was in Mangum’s ability to build successful relationships with various university constituencies as well as with lawmakers, the governor and major financial contributors.
“I think that she cannot succeed in any way that is good enough unless the matter of relationships is tackled and overcome,” Lawrence said.
Kelvin Lawson, a Jacksonville businessman and the FAMU board chairman, echoed a similar theme, saying the trustees and Mangum were at odds over their expectations of a “shared governance” of the university between the president and the trustees.
Lawson said Mangum seemed to favor a “more closed” approach, while the trustees preferred more openness, including being well-informed on key leadership decisions
“I think that is what the board is yearning for, that level of openness and transparency,” Lawson said.
Mangum is the first woman to lead FAMU on a permanent basis in the university’s 129-year history. She said she believed she had met or exceeded all the evaluation goals and firmly defended her presidency, noting some of her key achievements included improving FAMU enough to qualify for more than $25 million in performance funding from the state. The funding rewards universities that achieve certain standards, including graduation rates and job placement.
Mangum, who was appointed in 2014, also said there was a “lack of clarity” on many of the evaluation goals, which included items like “organizational management.”
“What does success look like and how do the members of the board define it?” Mangum asked, adding she had expected more discussion between herself and the evaluators before the report was finalized.
But Mangum’s comments drew a strong rebuttal from a number of trustees, who noted the evaluation goals were very similar to last year’s evaluation and the process has been underway for months.
Matthew Carter, a trustee and former member of state Public Service Commission, said if Mangum had issues with the evaluation process, they should have been raised much earlier. “I’m just kind of in shock really,” he said.
The trustees also debated how to resolve the presidency issue going forward, noting that if nothing is done the university will be without a president on April 1.
Harold Mills, a trustee and Orlando businessman, proposed offering Mangum a one-year contract extension, while requiring Mangum to work with an “executive coach” during the year.
Nicole Washington, a consultant and trustee, supported the extension, saying the relationship issues could be improved. “I don’t like everybody I work for, but it doesn’t mean they aren’t qualified,” she said.
Lawrence also supported the extension, although he said he was skeptical. “But I will give it the benefit of the doubt,” he said. “I do believe in redemption.”
Carter opposed the extension. “What you’re saying is let’s put us in the same place next year as we are now,” he said. “That’s crazy.”
Robert Woody, a trustee and former deputy secretary at the state Department of Juvenile Justice, also opposed the extension. “This relationship is not working … I haven’t changed my opinion,” he said.
Mangum said she was willing to keep working despite the criticism.
“I’m still committed to working to fulfill the goals and objectives of FAMU even if it’s for one more year,” she said.
But the one-year extension failed in a 7-5 vote.
The trustees voted unanimously to have Lawson name a special task force to work with Mangum on an interim plan, which Lawson said could include a contract extension.
“All options are still on the table,” Lawson said. “We still have the latitude to look at everything.”
The task force’s report will be considered by the board of trustees at a Sept. 14 meeting.
Under the terms of her contract, if it expires on April 1, Mangum will be eligible for a 12-month sabbatical and then join the FAMU faculty as a tenured professor earning 90 percent of her current $425,000 salary.
The News Service of Florida’s Lloyd Dunkelberger contributed to this report.