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Political meddling at FAMU

Published July 8, 2006

With all of the serious financial and management issues facing Florida A&M University, the last thing it needs is an ambitious politician playing gotcha with the trustees. Unfortunately, that's the depths to which state Sen. Al Lawson, D-Tallahassee, has descended.

Lawson told the Tallahassee Democrat Thursday that FAMU trustees chairwoman Challis Lowe is "off the board" because her reappointment missed a procedural hurdle by three days. His legal interpretation is tortured, particularly given that state law doesn't set such deadlines for appointments made by the constitutionally created university system Board of Governors. And even if a deadline was missed, Lowe, whose appointment was received too late this year for the Senate to confirm it, could still be reappointed by the board.

Lawson has no authority behind his selective enforcement, but his agenda is unmistakable. He is doing the bidding of some alumni and others who are at war with FAMU interim president Castell Bryant. Lowe has backed Bryant's crusading style, praising her as a "dragon slayer" and noting that Bryant has returned the university to financial solvency. So Lowe is apparently fair game as well.

Bryant has become a lightning rod, and her abrasive style no doubt contributes to the friction. But the board is actively searching for a permanent president, and Bryant has said she will retire when one is found. So the danger in political interference at this point is that it could scare away capable candidates. The fact that Lawson has shown his own interest in the job only makes his meddling all the more offensive.

[Last modified July 8, 2006, 01:38:29]

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