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Review is mixed for FAMU president

FAMU's board says Fred Gainous did an "okay" job and failed to make the school's problems a priority.

Published April 14, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - Florida A&M University leaders gave president Fred Gainous a mixed evaluation Tuesday for the way he managed the historically black school during its recent financial crisis.

Gainous, who was hired in 2002, will hold onto his job even though the FAMU board of trustees criticized him for failing to make the school's problems a priority and for being less than "forthright and plain-spoken" with them.

The board, composed mostly of business and community leaders, gave him what amounts to a "C" for his job performance. They graded Gainous on 19 leadership skills, giving him an overall score of three on a scale of one to five.

Trustees told the private consultant hired to conduct the evaluation that they agreed Gainous did an "okay" job. He got good marks for interacting effectively with legislators and enhancing faculty morale.

"It made sense, and the president agrees with us," board chairman Jim Corbin said of the review. "But the board has a lot of work to do, the president has a lot of work to do and there's a lot to be done at this university."

FAMU made national headlines last year after the St. Petersburg Times reported that one of the nation's best-known historically black universities was mired in a financial mess with roots that stretch back for years.

The problems included sloppy business practices that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, questionable and unapproved expenses, millions of dollars that could not be accounted for and a dysfunctional financial aid system.

Consultant Donna Ginn, who was paid $15,000 to evaluate Gainous, interviewed each of the trustees about the FAMU president's first 17 months on the job.

Gainous, who was somber at the meeting, agreed he had done an "okay" job, but pledged to do better.

"There is much to be done," he told trustees. "We will not sit around and lick our wounds over what has happened in the past but face the future with a constructive plan."

Sixty percent of trustees rated Gainous' performance between okay and excellent. The other 40 percent said his performance has been poor.

"It sounds like he got a critical grade, which was as much a grade on the board as it was on him," said Bill Tucker, a FAMU physics professor and president of the school's faculty union.

Gainous was credited with instituting integrity as a core value, improving the quality of student life and building a good relationship with the local community. But he has not created a master plan or addressed the academic side of the university, the evaluation said.

Ginn called Gainous' entry into the job "turbulent" for a number of reasons, including high turnover on the board that hired him in the summer of 2002.

"All of these things together ... created more than a normal level of professional jealousy, political maneuvering and acrimony in this system," she said.

The Faculty Senate conducted a separate, 52-question evaluation of Gainous in which 80 percent agreed he had done an "outstanding" job. Some faculty members came to the meeting hoping for an end to the review that had been delayed several times.

"It's been more of a distraction," said Hudson Nwakanma, a FAMU marketing professor and Faculty Senate vice president. "We've got other things on our plates."

The trustees called for an evaluation late last year after state officials refused to issue paychecks to top FAMU administrators until the school turned over crucial financial records. The school complied, but it was six weeks late.

Last week, state auditors found the school in compliance but said the financial statements contained numerous errors. The auditors said amounts owed to and by the university were misstated in several instances, with one misstatement amounting to $7.8-million.

The school has since balanced its books and started to complete a 149-task action plan that includes hiring a new financial chief.

[Last modified April 14, 2004, 01:05:41]

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