Questions keep piling up for FAMU and Ammons
July 10, 2012
Twice this summer, Florida A&M President James Ammons has been scheduled to meet with the Sentinel's editorial board to talk about the scandals that are tarnishing the school's reputation.
And twice he has backed out.
Since Ammons won't personally answer questions about FAMU's deadly hazing culture, spiraling academic performance, accreditation woes, and fraudulent fiscal management, we'll try asking a few of them in print:
-Former students call hazing the worst-kept campus secret as far back as 1997 — when Ammons served as provost. How bad is it? Two music professors resigned after revelations that they attended a party where band members were hazed. Yet school administrators — and even the assistant band director who was aboard a bus on which musicians reported being thumped during Florida Classic weekend — insist they hadn't noticed the band's violent hazing culture. Question: How could administrators be so blind to what seems so obvious?
-In a meeting with school officials three days before the Florida Classic football game, Henry Kirby, the school's dean of students, and former FAMU police Chief Calvin Ross, recommended reining in the band's hazing culture with a long-term suspension. There was precedent: FAMU suspended Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity in 2006 for caning a pledge. Kirby insisted that "if we suspend the band like we did the Kappas that it would effectively stop all this hazing." Champion, at the very least, wouldn't have been beaten to death on a tour bus that Nov. 19 night. Yet Ammons says he wasn't briefed on the Nov. 16 meeting — which included his second in command — until January. Question: How could Ammons be unaware of such a grave meeting with such consequential recommendations from influential staffers?
-Three people charged in Champion's hazing death were among 100 ineligible band members on the Marching 100's fall roster and among the 60 ineligible musicians who received $78 per diems to perform at the Florida Classic. Question: How is it possible for ineligible musicians to make the band, travel with it and receive public dollars for the privilege?
-FAMU's four-year graduation rate is a dismal 12 percent; its six-year rate is 39 percent — the state's lowest. That owes, in part, to Ammons' insistence on admitting applicants who are unprepared for college rigor. Students who flunk out or graduate with the state's highest debt loads. Question: Are his good intentions dooming students to failure?
-Final question: Given what seems like a weekly schedule of unflattering revelations, coupled with the Board of Trustees' vote of no-confidence in his creaky leadership, why hasn't Ammons resigned?