Florida A&M University president James Ammons, who last week announced plans to resign in October amid a host of problems at the university, will now step down immediately.
That decision was the first order of business of the FAMU Board of Trustees during an emergency conference call Monday morning.
Ammons was present on the call but said little. When board chairman Solomon Badger spelled out the terms of the agreement — that Ammons would step down right away, take a sabbatical leave and then return as a professor — Ammons simply voiced that he agreed.
He will leave with two bonuses: 25 percent of his $325,000 base salary for his performance during the 2010-2011 school year, and 5 percent for meeting goals laid out for 2011-2012.
Ammons had planned to leave Oct. 11, exactly 90 days after he tendered his resignation letter, a time period required by his contract.
Taking his place, at least for now, is FAMU provost Larry Robinson.
Robinson is expected to come before the trustees again at their next meeting later this fall for them to officially confirm, or deny, his appointment as interim president.
That technicality came after several trustees expressed hesitation at appointing Robinson as interim outright, saying they wanted more time to vet him and, potentially, other candidates.
After the meeting, Robinson told reporters that the interim position was an "honor and a privilege." He vowed to work to shake things up at the troubled university, and said it would not be "business as usual."
For months, FAMU has been under intense scrutiny for a litany of troubles — most seriously, an investigation into hazing following the death of a student band member last fall. There have also been problems in the school's audit office, issues raised by academic accreditors and an inquiry launched by state higher education leaders into the university's internal controls.
Those troubles and more put major pressure on Ammons, who was brought to FAMU in 2007 to clean up a number of different problems at the university. Back then, finances were a mess, top administrators were leaving and the university's accreditation was on probation.
FAMU's is one of two particularly important open presidency slots, with the Florida Board of Governors recently expressing interest in having a larger role in the search process there and at the University of Florida.
State university system chancellor Frank Brogan echoed that sentiment in a letter sent to Robinson later on Monday, commending him for stepping up to the plate.
Brogan reminded him that the Board of Governors still wants more information from FAMU on several issues raised at the board's last meeting in June. Among them, the school's dismal graduation rates and high student debt.
In addition, Brogan attached a letter from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools that was sent to FAMU in late June. It outlines a number of additional concerns, including potential problems with: academic policies, control over finances, control over non-students engaging in university-sanctioned activity, student safety, and hazing.
SACS asked FAMU to report back by July 26.
Kim Wilmath can be reached at [email protected] or 813-226-3337.