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FAMU Trustees Set Stage For President's Exit

Florida A&M University via Twitter
Elmira Mangum speaks at an FAMU commencement

Elmira Mangum will no longer lead the country's largest historically black public university if Florida A&M University trustees approve a plan advanced Wednesday to end her two-year presidency.

Under the terms of an agreement, endorsed by a special presidential leadership committee, Mangum would immediately step down and be replaced by an interim president if the full Board of Trustees approves the plan on Thursday.

The trustees earlier this year refused to extend Mangum's three-year contract, which expires in April, with some trustees describing communication problems between the president and the trustees and other university groups. Mangum is the first woman to serve as a non-interim president in FAMU's 129-year history.

At a board meeting in August, Mangum defended her presidency, citing achievements that led to the Legislature awarding $25 million in performance funding to the school. But since that meeting, Mangum and her attorney have been in negotiations with trustees on an exit plan.

"We are looking to work with Dr. Mangum and to simply show our appreciation for her service and at the same time have a smooth transition," said Thomas Dortch, a trustee who chaired the presidential leadership committee that negotiated the deal.

Under the agreement, after Mangum immediately steps down, she would continue to earn her $425,000 annual salary until April 1, when she would begin a 12-month sabbatical. By Oct. 2, 2017, she would have to notify the school about whether she would continue as a tenured professor at the university.

If she opts for the professorship, she would receive 90 percent of her base pay as president in her first year, with the salary being adjusted to the highest salary paid for any FAMU professor in subsequent years.

Mangum would have 30 days to leave the president's on-campus residence once she steps down, with $7,500 in moving expenses.

The agreement would also reimburse Mangum for $6,500 in legal fees.

Jaylen Smith, a trustee and president of the Student Government Association, opposed the agreement, saying students had not been represented when the special committee initially discussed the exit plan at a Sept. 2 meeting in Orlando.

"The students' voices were not being heard and they're still not being heard. Does my voice matter? That's the question," said Smith, who was unable to attend the Orlando meeting because of a flight delay.

Smith said he expects a group of FAMU students to protest Mangum's departure at the trustees' meeting on Thursday.

"I would definitely prefer to see the president get a fair chance," said Smith, who said his opinion echoed a large number of FAMU students.

The presidential leadership committee on Wednesday also voted to recommend a plan to move FAMU through the transition of Mangum's departure and the selection of the next president.

Under the proposal, the trustees would name an interim president on Thursday, initially offering a 90-day contract that could eventually be converted to a one-year contract, subject to approval by the state Board of Governors, which oversees the 12 Florida public universities.

The proposal also calls for the creation of a "presidential review" committee that would meet and develop a procedure for the search and selection of a permanent FAMU president.

A likely contender for the interim presidency is FAMU Provost Marcella David, a former University of Iowa law professor and dean whom Mangum appointed in early 2015.

Kelvin Lawson, chairman of the board of trustees, said David was a possibility but that other candidates for the interim presidency could be advanced during the meeting Thursday.

"We want to think broadly and explore all of our options," Lawson said.

He also said he welcomed a critique from students who are not happy about Mangum's departure.

"We need to be mindful of their points of view, and we need to listen to those points of view," Lawson said.

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