Florida Board of Governors moves to appoint FAMU president, put Florida Greek life ‘on notice’

During the Florida Board of Governors meeting Thursday, members pushed to forgo FAMU’s presidential selection process, put Florida Greek life “on notice” and more.

The Florida Board of Governors, also known as BOG, oversees the management and operation of Florida’s 12 public universities, according to the board’s website.

UCF

UCF President John C. Hitt received a standing ovation at the BOG meeting for his success at UCF.

“[Hitt’s] unbelievable leadership and accomplishments of this university are beyond measure,” Board of Governors Chairman Tom Kuntz, who led the standing ovation, said.

As the applause subsided in the Fairwinds Alumni Center on UCF’s main campus, Hitt expressed his excitement for the future.

“I am looking forward to my role as president emeritus, and as we say here at UCF, ‘Let’s keep reaching for the stars.’ Go, Knights!” Hitt said.

The BOG meeting discussed university metrics and presidential nominations, although UCF’s presidential search was only briefly mentioned.

The selection of UCF’s next president has been an important topic to the UCF community ever since Hitt announced his retirement, which will take effect on June 30, 2018, on Oct. 24.

Sydney Kitson, a former NFL offensive guard for the Green Bay Packers and the Dallas Cowboys and successor to the vice chair position on the BOG, is in charge of reviewing the nominee for UCF’s next president.

While BOG member Wendy Link reported on the status of the University of North Florida’s presidential search, which has approved the budget and salary for the university president position and begun accepting applications and nominations, there is not yet word on the status of UCF’s presidential search. 

Kitson will most likely update the BOG on UCF’s presidential search committee progress at the next meeting, which is on Jan. 25 at Florida State University, Kuntz said.

However, Kuntz said the BOG and its respective members will be returning in June to give Hitt an appropriate send-off.

DirectConnect

Suggestions to improve the 2+2 Articulation Program, which is also referred to as the DirectConnect Program at UCF, were proposed.

The program creates a partnership between universities and community or state colleges and allows students to earn their associates in arts degree at a community college, such as Valencia College, and then guarantees them a spot at the parent university, such as UCF, when they apply to obtain their bachelor’s degree.

Board member Alan Levine highlighted two strategies to improve the program: a web-based toolkit’s strategy for improving access to information and improving local programs to give students a more thoroughly advised transition.

Both strategies were meant to create and analyze more data, which is meant to help the BOG determine what kind of benchmarks to set and what kind of funding should be allocated, Levine said.

“Our 2+2 program is really good,” Levine said. “When you hear it is the best in the country, it’s not just a subjective statement, it is objectively true.”

Board member Norman Tripp and Kuntz considered dissolving the 2+2 Articulation Program subcommittee and deferring control of the articulation process to Student Academic Service at the respective institutions to monitor and aggregate data, but the vote was postponed until January.

Appointments and nominations

The Nominating and Governance Committee voted on trustee and governor nominations.

BOG Vice Chair Ned Lautenbach was voted unanimously to succeed Kuntz as next chairman of the BOG, and Kitson was unanimously voted to succeed the vice chair.

Multiple universities had vacancies including Florida Atlantic University, Florida State University and UCF.

UCF voted to reelect Beverly Seay to the Board of Trustees, a request which was approved by the BOG with no opposition.

Seay is also the vice chair of the UCF presidential search committee.

Jay Patel, the father of BOG member Kishane Patel, was also unanimously approved to serve on the BOG and is the first father-son assignment to the board.

FAMU president 

While UCF will go through a “comprehensive” search for its next president, Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) is seeking a quicker route.

Vice Chair of the FAMU Foundation Board of Directors Hosetta Coleman and President of FAMU Alumni Association Lt. Col. Gregory Clark requested the BOG forgo FAMU’s presidential search procedure and appoint current Interim President Larry Robinson as the official president of FAMU.

FAMU Board of Trustees Chair Kelvin Lawson spoke at the end of the request to highlight how Robinson has been interim president of FAMU three times to date and, after bringing in an outside psychologist and conducting a “leadership profiling” survey, has also been determined a good match.

“[Robinson] fit the profile of what the Board of Trustees was looking for in a university president,” Lawson said.

This request was unanimously approved by the BOG, giving FAMU permission to forgo the selection process and vote on the appointment of Robinson.

The FAMU Board of Trustees must still vote on the confirmation of Robinson, but chances are good that FAMU will have an official president within the fiscal year.

Greek life

Kuntz also requested a motion, which was discussed at a previous committee meeting, to indefinitely suspend FSU’s Greek life and put Greek life at all universities in Florida on notice to emphasize the BOG’s seriousness about the issue.

The notice is a warning that Greek organizations across the state could also be suspended indefinitely if similar preventable tragedies occur. 

FSU announced the decision on Nov. 6 after the death of Andrew Coffey, a pledge at Pi Kappa Phi, according to a statement on FSU’s official website.

Tripp was charged with outlining the Mental Health Implementation Plan by the BOG, which plans to hire “105 mental health staff members over the next four years,” Tripp said.

The plan will hire 56 additional mental health staff for Fiscal Year (FY) 2017-18 and 49 additional mental health staff for the 2020-21 FY.

The designation “mental health staff” includes psychologists, mental health counselors, case managers, health and wellness coaches and “others based on the needs of the institution,” according to the Plan.

The funding will also be used for expanding post-doctoral training, salary equity, equipment and software.

Tripp also highlighted the services available to students, saying students who “take advantage of the services do better academically.”

Edward Morton, a sitting governor on the BOG, said there seems to be a high correlation between academic performance and stress level.

The issue of mental health within the university culture was brought up as well.

“We are dealing with [what] is being identified as fraternity and sorority [issues] but is a broader problem,” Tripp said. “That is including alcohol and drugs, in addition to those already dealing with mental health issues. It is a big problem, but we are going to stay on top of it.”

Unions

Additionally, Tara Blackwell from USF spoke and requested that adjunct faculty be allowed to form a labor union at USF.

Blackwell’s request was heard and met with silence by the BOG. Blackwell was then thanked, and no action was taken in regards to the request.