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Ammons, dean-to-be visit FAMU law school



ORLANDO - Florida A&M University President James Ammons and the dean-to-be of the beleaguered law school met with students this morning, promising them better communication, a better response to festering problems and better days ahead.

Ammons Pernellleroy “You’re going to see changes, and they’re going to be positive changes,” Ammons (left) told more than 50 students after the pending dean, LeRoy Pernell, answered their questions for nearly two hours.

Ammons and Pernell (right) also sought to allay concerns that the law school might not get American Bar Association approval for full accreditation.

“There are some unacceptable things that have happened here, and that will change,” said Pernell, who’s now the dean at Northern Illinois University. “I would not come to this school after 30 years (in legal education) if I did not believe in this school.”

Thursday’s high-profile visit comes after law students have been complaining for months about what they describe as administrative blunders on everything from financial aid distribution to academic support. Meanwhile, with the clock ticking on FAMU’s accreditation status, students and faculty alike have been raising questions about whether the law school’s flaws can be fixed fast enough.

As The St. Petersburg Times chronicled in a story Wednesday, some students grew frustrated enough to transfer to other law schools in recent months while many others considered it. Some pointed to the recent departure of a popular, highly regarded professor, James Smith, as an ominous sign that faculty may be reaching a breaking point, too.

“We lost him not because of a decision he wanted to make, but a decision he was forced to make,” one of his former students, Yolanda Bruce, told Ammons, her voice cracking with emotion. “He’s not alone.”

“I’m a FAMU Rattler through and through,” said Ashley Ridgeway, who also attended FAMU as an undergraduate. “But at this point, I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

“As students, we don’t want to keep talking about the problems,” she continued. “We have told you. We want resolution.”

With that, the other students in the room applauded.

— Ron Matus, Times education reporter

[Last modified: Tuesday, May 25, 2010 9:21am]


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