FAMU’s Interim President Lashes Back at Critics

Florida A&M University’s controversial interim president lashed back at her critics Thursday. Castell Bryant says she will continue with sweeping changes at the university, including more layoffs.

But many fear her tough management style is putting the university’s future at stake. She has a harsh message for critics of her reforms.

“We must change or we will die.”

And Castell Bryant told students and faculty at the Board of Trustees meeting that means more heads will roll; another 40 employees are being put on notice.

It’s the last thing physics professor Bill Tucker wanted to hear. He’s filing grievances on behalf of eight business professors Bryant just fired.

“They intend to get rid of more people for totally arbitrary reasons.”

FAMU’s financial picture is a major point of contention as well. Castell Bryant says the university’s running a surplus. Her critics say they’ve got documents showing FAMU is actually $10 million in a hole.

But Bryant is getting the nod to stay on for another year, if that’s what it takes to find a permanent president.

Former student body president Ramon Alexander says the sooner FAMU gets this instability behind it, the better.

“We’re making a lot of drastic changes. What’s going to happen, the next president is going to come in. They’re going to come in and make their drastic changes.”

The turmoil is torturous for students like graduating senior Berry St. Vill.

“It hurts me deeply because I am a proud FAMU. I will be a proud FAMU alumni and I want to give back, and if there’s no FAMU two years down the line, what am I going to give back to?”

A new president is expected to be in the chair by August 2007, if not sooner. Meanwhile, Interim President Castell Bryant’s supporters say she’s brought much-needed fresh air to the university. But Bryant says she will not seek the president’s position permanently.

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