On his first day in office, Florida A&M University President Dr. James Ammons graciously asked the FAMU family of alumni, students, faculty and staff for 500 days to resolve the university’s nagging fiscal matters, pending accreditation probation and a flurry of personnel problems.
Ahead of schedule, Ammons has overcome his greatest challenge yet, regaining full accreditation to the largest historically Black university in the nation. Thursday morning, the accrediting board, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS), lifted probation after a final vote.
FAMU’s accreditation woes surfaced last summer when recent state audits cited university financial records that could not be verified, questionable contracting and the university’s inability to account for millions of dollars. By placing the already unstable institution on accreditation probation, SACS issued FAMU a stern warning.
This summer, however, SACS is singing a different tune.
“We are very proud of and excited for FAMU for all of their hard work to come into compliance with the commission’s standards; and therefore, get off of probation,” said SACS president, Dr. Belle S. Wheelan.
There were shouts of joy from more than 300 rattlers (university mascot), trustees, administrators, faculty, staff, students and alumni, as Ammons, the university’s 10th president, made the announcement.
“This is a great day for FAMU and the state of Florida,” said Ammons. “We have been able to solve and address the critical issues that threatened the very existence of this university. Through our success, we have preserved this institution’s legacy for generations to come. Our intent was to restore the public’s trust in the university’s ability to handle its finances and I believe this entire process has sent a strong and clear message to the state and our stakeholders that FAMU is in good hands.”
Like many students, Anthony Anamelechi, a graduating senior at FAMU, is relieved. Throughout the entire process, Anamelechi was confident the institution would bounce back. “Some students transferred,” says Anamelechi, “they didn’t want to take the chance.”
Faithful FAMU professors encouraged Anamelechi to remain a rattler. “My professor told me that FAMU had been through this before,” he says.
Dr. Maurice Holder, president of FAMU’s faculty senate, applauds the faculty and administration for their efforts. “The faculty has not lost sight of its responsibility to protect and advance the academic environment here at FAMU,” says Holder. “This is on the top of our commitments.”
In a meeting on Wednesday, the Board of Governor’s Task Force on FAMU Finance and Operational Control Issues, which was established to provide oversight regarding the implementation of the corrective action plan, concluded that FAMU had implemented adequate and effective controls. The task force found that 72 corrective actions put into place by FAMU satisfactorily addressed 92 percent of the findings noted by the task force earlier.
“After completing this process, FAMU is in a stronger financial position and has restored its fiscal integrity,” said Ammons. “Campus morale is high, sound financial planning and accounting practices are in effect, and policies and procedures governing finances are operating effectively. Additionally, qualified leadership is in place among the administration and the board of trustees.”
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