Trustees at Florida A&M University on Thursday publicly reprimanded President James Ammons, saying he has done a poor job of keeping them informed and consulting them on issues related to the recent death of student Robert Champion.
Trustee Rufus Montgomery had pushed to place Ammons on leave while state law enforcement officials investigate the circumstances that caused Champion's death after an apparent hazing ritual in Orlando last month.
But the board of trustees instead decided to issue a reprimand to make its displeasure known.
Ammons, FAMU's president since 2007, declined to comment other than to say: "I heard the board loudly and clearly."
Since Champion's death, there has been a public outcry over hazing on the campus of the historically black college in Tallahassee and among marching band members nationwide.
Champion, a drum major for the school's famed "Marching 100," collapsed on the band's bus after the Florida Classic football game between FAMU and Bethune-Cookman University.
Several trustees, who met Thursday at FAMU's law school in Orlando, expressed frustration that the president has not kept them updated or consulted them before making decisions such as forming a task force to look into campus hazing.
Trustee Spurgeon McWilliams said Ammons overstepped his authority. McWilliams also took issue with Ammons' plan to fire longtime band director Julian White, who has been placed on paid administrative leave until the completion of an investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Ammons has been accused of knowing about hazing problems at FAMU and failing to stop them. White has said administrators failed to support him in preventing and punishing hazing going back several years.
"I don't know what he [Ammons] knew and when he knew it — but better communication between the president and the board would certainly help," McWilliams told his fellow trustees, who also voted to hire a public relations firm to help handle an onslaught of calls from reporters since Champion's death.
Montgomery made it clear he is not happy with Ammons' performance in general. The board learned Thursday that FAMU's cardiopulmonary program could have its accreditation put on probation because too few students are passing a key exam.
Montgomery stopped short of saying whether he might seek Ammons' dismissal or to place him on leave in February, when the board is scheduled to discuss his annual review.
"Between now and our next meeting," he said, "I will take whatever information may come my way and help guide my actions going forward."
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