Controversial dean continues to generate negative press
By Dante Morrison
Tallahassee—A last-minute round the clock effort to complete an accreditation report paid off in dividends for the Florida A&M University School of Journalism and Graphic Communication. But it wasn’t without controversy. Dean Michelle Ferrier responded to the questions posed by the Accrediting Council on Education in Journalism and Mass Communications just days before the deadline. Her responses were deemed unsatisfactory to the faculty and rejected by a unanimous vote. The angry dean walked away from the project, and a hand full of faculty members stepped in and finished the proposal to the satisfaction of the ACEJMC.
The flare-up occurred just before Thanksgiving 2019. “It was unbelievable. She just walked away. We were in the middle of capstones and approaching graduation. The faculty was on triple duty, teaching, capstones, and answering ACEJMC,” according to a faculty member who agreed to comment without attribution. Ferrier has been controversial since her arrival at FAMU in October 2018.
For one thing, unlike all previous deans, Ferrier does not teach a class. She also travels excessively, which is another complaint among faculty and staff. Her fundraising is also sorely lacking according to sources.
But the provocative Ferrier was embroiled in a scandal of her own making. On October 14, 2019, she sent a staffer a demand letter for payment on a $3,000 loan. And she did it using the FAMU server and journalism school address. She included an extraordinary interest rate of 50% on the unpaid balance before January 1, 2020, and 25% for the balance after that. By mid-November, as the story percolated, Ferrier was tagged as FAMU’s “Loan Sharking Dean.” “The woman has engaged in unprecedented misconduct! And she’s the dean of a journalism school where we teach students ethics, to root out misconduct, and wrongdoing,” said a journalism professor.
Then the Ferrier story broke in Rattler Nation, a blog known for revealing all things FAMU. https://rattlernation.blogspot.com/2019/11/famu-dean-appears-to-have-made.html?m=1
On October 16, the staffer gave University Provost Maurice Eddington the demand letter. Not until it appeared in Rattler Nation a month later did Eddington initiate an investigation. But Ferrier continued to harass the staffer until she recently moved out of her office. She is employed elsewhere now, but Ferrier continued her pursuit of payment in the Leon County Small claims court and would not comment to the Tallahassee Democrat beyond, “it’s a personal matter.”
The journalism school is in chaos according to those who work there, and the while the administration makes random inquiries about working conditions, Ferrier to remains the dean.
Meanwhile social media stories about the scandal are trending. And Twitter is lit up with chiding of Provost Eddington and President Larry Robinson from Rattler Nation calling the school #Amscot School of Journalism.
According to several sources, Ferrier has ordered surveillance and the review of videotapes of the comings and goings of various faculty members.
The status of the Ferrier investigation is not known. University communications says it does not comment on personnel matters.
FAMU Vice President of Student Affairs, Bill Hudson, Ph.D., Dean Michelle Ferrier, Ph.D., and FAMU President Larry Robinson on a student recruiting tour in Atlanta a few days after officials were made aware of the loan demand letter.