Two FAMU anti-hazing panel members resign, lash trustees in sign-offs
The drama at Florida A&M months after a drum major's hazing death continues.
The latest: Two experts whom FAMU trustees recruited to research and recommend anti-hazing practices have left the seven-member committee -- just as they warned.
Former U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Craig Robinson and clinical psychologist Na'im Akbar resigned from the panel last week in pointed letters that defend their request to operate in private.
Robinson, who warned trustees that five members would resign if forced to comply with Florida's open government laws, called one trustee's "vociferous" criticism of him "ill conceived, uninformed and rude."
He was talking about Rufus Montgomery, one of two trustees who wanted the committee to be public all along and said Robinson's warning was more like a threat of "a child not getting their way."
"So, you know, go ahead and resign," he said in a March 30 emergency trustee conference call. "But I don't think as a board we should be held hostage under the threat of resignation of anyone."
Robinson said he was only reporting information trustees wanted, not making a threat.
"To be accused of ugly motivations in a public forum and in such a fashion was churlish to say the least," he wrote Tuesday.
Per the request of the anti-hazing committee, FAMU trustees voted last month to change the panel's mission to fact-finding so that members did not have to notice meetings. But Gov. Rick Scott and Dean Colson, chairman of the Board of Governors, pounced on the reversal and urged trustees to go back on their change of heart. All but two did in the emergency meeting.
Akbar, former president of National Association of Black Psychologists, said finishing the group's findings by a fall-semester deadline was "utterly unimaginable," according to his Wednesday resignation letter.
"The time restraints further imbued the assignment with toxic implications that we would be the sacrificial lambs in this complex public relations nightmare," he wrote.
Robinson said five of the committee's seven members would leave if the trustees changed their minds. So, who's next? And what happens then?
Here's who's left:
Elizabeth Allan – professor at University of Maine and co-director of the National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention;
• Michael V. Bowie – executive director of Florida Fund for Minority Teachers and former national president of the National Pan-Hellenic Council;
• David Brewer – former vice admiral of the Navy and superintendent of the Los Angeles Unified School District;
• Mary Madden – Professor at University of Maine and and co-director of the National Collaborative for Hazing Research and Prevention;
• David Starnes – band director and music professor at Western Carolina University.