tampabay.com

FAMU reforms are lagging

By Times editorial
Published August 14, 2006


The latest report from financially mismanaged Florida A&M University is encouraging. But only encouraging. The Board of Governors, which oversees the state's 11 universities, learned last week from a recent auditor's general examination that FAMU had a $2.7-million surplus for 2004-05. This would be reason to celebrate if that amount had not been far less than the $8-million reported in a KPMG audit last fall.

The harsh truth is that FAMU, Florida's lone historically black public university, is taking too long to get its act together.

Interim president Castell Bryant, appointed in January 2005, has done a respectable job. She has, among other things, implemented better record-keeping, pruned many incompetent and nonexistent employees, hired new vice presidents in key positions and established management training for 200 employees.

But much more needs to be done and done soon. A major part of changing the culture at the university involves radically changing the rarely discussed incompetence caused by the tradition of cronyism and protectiveness that plagues the culture at many historically black colleges. Many of FAMU's current problems have their roots in past administrations, whose presidents and their appointees hired their friends and acquaintances of friends rather than hiring the best person for the jobs. To add insult to injury, many of those involved in this practice defend their incompetent hires or remain silent until irreparable harm has been done.

From all indications, Bryant is fully aware of FAMU's old ways of operating and the state's double standard of treating FAMU one way and the other tax-supported universities another way.

While her style can be abrasive, Bryant has made strides toward changing the way FAMU conducts business. To succeed and to guarantee a viable future for the proud Tallahassee campus, Bryant and her eventual successor will need the full support of the governor, the Board of Governors, the school's own board of trustees and alumni.