Archive for the 'News' Category

FAMU censorship prompts new independent site

January 14, 2013
By Peter McKay | FAMU ’97 | Email

The Famuan staff, laboring under a constitutionally sketchy school-ordered delay in print publication this month, has instead published their work today on the new website This basically keeps them on their originally intended publication sked for the semester.

I’m really proud of editor Karl Etters and his team for sticking to their guns. I encourage other students, alumni, and faculty to check out this project, tell others in the community who might be interested, and keep coming back for your FAMU news.

I also hope that at least a few of the writers and editors will commit to making the new site into something awesome over the longer haul. The community could really use a new independent voice, regardless of what happens to the old-school print Famuan in the next few weeks.


Famuan stories welcome here

January 10, 2013
By Peter McKay | FAMU ’97 | Email

FAMU has put publication of The Famuan on hiatus through the end of the month following a libel suit by an ex-member of the Marching 100 related to a story about hazing last semester. The journalism dean says they’ll replace the adviser and take other steps to shore up journalistic standards during that time.

As you might expect, this has caused a lot of discussion among students and even alumni like myself today. People are concerned not just about the standards issues but also the extent to which the staff’s First Amendment rights and independence are being protected.

Personally, I’m a little puzzled because it would seem that contesting a libel suit and suspending publication is mixing apples and oranges. Publications of all sizes are sued for libel all the time for things they published previously, but that doesn’t mean they don’t put out the next edition while the litigation is pending. Journalism in the real world is very much a show-must-go-on sort of enterprise, and if nothing else, it sends a very bad message to students to undermine that idea.

With that in mind, I’ll gladly publish any stories here through month end that FAMU staff members would otherwise have printed in the Famuan. Just email me a draft, including a phone number where I can reach you. I’ll edit your copy myself, then publish it with your byline as a guest writer on the blog, so the information will still get out.

It’s an admittedly imperfect workaround, but hey, I’ll just throw it out there in case someone has use for it.

FAMU’s Probation

December 13, 2012
By Peter McKay | FAMU ’97 | Email

The latest news about the accrediting body SACS putting Florida A&M on probation is worrisome indeed.

USA Today’s story on the situation explains the probation this way:

According to [FAMU President Larry] Robinson, SACS’ most recent decision centered around four key areas at FAMU, including two involving the Office of Audit and Compliance. A whistle-blower’s complaint in summer 2011 led to an independent investigation of that office by the Tallahassee law firm Sniffin & Spellman. It found serious issues with 15 internal audits, including instances in which summaries were presented when audits had not been conducted.

Robinson says he had recently been in touch with SACS about student safety following the Robert Champion tragedy, but the organization’s heightened concern about finances came as something of a surprise.

It’s also worth noting, SACS isn’t the only oversight body that’s taking a special interest in FAMU these days. The Orlando Sentinel reports that we may yet hear more from state legislators on the university’s woes soon:

Senate President Don Gaetz said he expects lawmakers to take a closer look at FAMU during the coming legislative session. In 2007, FAMU’s accreditation was placed on probation for six months, which was eventually extended to a year.

“There are members of the Senate who have deep and abiding admiration for FAMU and who are concerned that the university seems to lurch from one scandal to another,” he said, adding that he hopes the accreditation probation will push FAMU to improve. “This is an opportunity for FAMU to get its house in order.”

If the legislature can proceed in the concerned-but-constructive manner that Gaetz’s quote suggests, I actually think that would be a positive thing for the university. Of course, though, there’s risk that the whole thing will become an overly politicized mess. We’ll have to wait and see.

I have to say, as a “Golden Age” alum, I’m also weary of the “lurching” about that Gaetz describes. Sometimes it feels like we made some Robert Johnson-like deal with the devil around the time we won the College of the Year award, then it’s been nothing but strife and drama ever since.

[UPDATE: The Miami Herald points out that FAMU is the only public four-year university in Florida to have ever faced probation from SACS. It’s now done so twice.

Other universities, like FSU, have gotten the proverbial “side eye” from SACS in certain respects at times, but never formal probation. There are also some non-universities, like Edison State College, that have faced probation. But among the public four-year universities, only FAMU hits the perfecta.]

FAMU, Clark crack down on new hazing cases

September 5, 2012

Just a few weeks into the new school year, both FAMU and Clark Atlanta have suspended student organizations due to allegations of recent hazing incidents.

Of course, the sheer knuckleheadedness of anyone at an HBCU who would be hazing at this point, post Robert Champion, is simply breathtaking. It also goes to show, as we’ve said often on this blog, that people who are courageous enough to speak out when they know hazing is going on should be applauded, not shunned or discouraged. Ultimately, bringing these incidents out is helpful as a curative to a real problem, even if the medicine is bitter in the short term.

Thankfully, this message seems to be catching on in some corners of the alumni community more and more. In one of its posts on Clark’s recent suspension of its band, the site HBCU Digest wrote in praise of the as-yet anonymous student who blew the whistle:

Someone was man enough or woman enough to recognize the lunacy of hazing at an HBCU after all of the tragedy and controversy at FAMU, and wanted to spare the band and the university the humiliation of being the next HBCU popped on hazing allegations. That student saved the school millions of dollars in legal fees and lost recruitment revenue, hundreds of thousands in marketing and rebranding efforts to remove the stigma of hazing, and more importantly, someone’s life.

Amen to that! Here’s hoping more students who are unfortunate enough to encounter hazing firsthand take a similar path, bucking peer pressure and PR fretting.

Ammons Resigns

July 11, 2012
By Peter McKay | FAMU ’97 | Email

It’s official. James Ammons is resigning as president of Florida A&M. Here’s his resignation letter to the board of trustees.

It’s a sad day for FAMU anytime there’s a messy transition like this, but the truth is, this was a necessary step to recover from the recent hazing scandal. It was simply never going to be credible to the extended set of constituencies that FAMU answers to — legislators, parents, donors, et cetera — to say that the school was serious about fixing things as long as the same person was in charge at the top.

Ammons led an administration that was tin-eared regarding hazing prior to Robert Champion’s death. For the record, we should note that his wasn’t the only such administration. But you know what, that’s not a defense. The good things he did in other areas aside from hazing aren’t a defense. The fact that he’s such a likable guy — and he is — that’s not a defense either.

It’s also worth noting that no president is all good or all bad — not Ammons, not even the hated Fred Gainous or Castell Bryant. That’s not the point.

Ammons had to go. Forget the state of Florida; let’s say the universe dictated it. This is just how these things go.