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Monday, June 15, 2009

AAMU to interview presidential finalist Thursday


With four new members appointed last week by Gov. Bob Riley, the Alabama A&M University Board of Trustees has scheduled a meeting Thursday to attempt to re-interview three finalists for the university's presidency. A selection may come as soon as Friday.

The 11-member board hasn't been able to get a quorum together since January because of a standoff over the presidential picks, Dr. Lawrence Davenport of Florida; Dr. Rodney Smith of Virginia and Dr. Andrew Hugine Jr. of South Carolina.

Several trustees have boycotted subsequent meetings because some believe the process was designed to favor Davenport, who narrowly lost to Dr. Robert Jennings in 2005. Jennings was ousted in March 2008.

Riley appointed the four new trustees last week after two years of fighting to get his previous four picks.

While many have praised the new trustee picks, who can serve until the Senate Confirmations Committee takes up the appointments next year, the president of the faculty Senate has said that one new trustee---Odysseus M. Lanier--- brings a bias toward Davenport to the presidential search process.

Lanier was co-chair of the search committee that recommended the three finalists, and Cady says Lanier told faculty leaders at a meeting with the governor's legal adviser this year that Davenport was most qualified, should have been hired in 2005 instead of Dr. Robert Jennings, and should be president now.

Lanier declined to comment last week about whether he supports Davenport for the job, saying he would reserve comment until he begins serving on the board.

Questions have arisen about Davenport, who recently left his job as head of a prestigious charter school in Providence, R.I., a job he accepted two days before interviewing for the Alabama A&M job.

The Providence newspaper described Davenport's tenure as "contentious." It wouldn't be the first time Davenport has left a school in controversy.

Before he came to Providence, Davenport was a vice president and fundraiser for Florida Atlantic University.

He left with a severance package of nearly $600,000 that prompted a state audit and opposition from the Florida Legislature.

The Providence school's leaders said they examined Davenport's tenure in Florida and found no wrongdoing.

According to his resume, Davenport has had seven jobs since 2000, counting the Providence position.

Thursday's meeting is scheduled for 10 a.m. in the Clyde Foster Multipurpose Room in the School of Business on the A&M campus.

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