By Dante Morrison
Tallahassee—If something is going on at Florida A&M University, the big reveal appears courtesy of the blog Rattler Nation. Established on January 6, 2006, Rattler Nation was launched as a watchdog over the term of controversial interim president Castel Bryant whose wrecking ball style generated numerous stories. The blog soon earned the reputation for having credible sources that ran deep and true.
The passion for FAMU is apparent in the stories. They are mostly sports. The academic achievement, the famed Marching 100, and graduate and student success profiles are a constant. It’s a place where Rattlers can find a reason to be proud again. But they also learn the hard truth about some of the problems that have stalled the grand HBCU, chipping away at its persona for excellence in research, academics, athletics, and student recruitment.
Rattler Nation has managed to do something most blogs cannot do. It beaks stories beating the mainstream media mercilessly. They do it with straight stories containing accurate information and lots of detail. The “Street Committee” gossip is no more, because of the FAMU blog. In the last month, RN broke seven stories. Some of them include President Larry Robinson hiring a new athletic director from the University of Miami and never telling the then-athletic director John Eason. There was the abrupt resignation of the Associate VP for finance, followed by a story that proved that for two weeks, the man was on the payrolls of Tugaloo College and FAMU. Before that story, Rattler Nation detailed the demise of the athletic program and the $8-million deficit, transfer of millions, and the bloodbath firings of the 3 top financial officers. These women executives thought they were valued by the president, who said he knew nothing about anything. That brought withering criticism from the Board of Governors. All duly noted on the blog story.
Recently, Rattler Nation not only broke the story that the Department of Health was withholding $2.5 million in FAMU Medical Marijuana program revenues for non-compliance, with the interagency agreement. It released the funds months later after Robinson drew up a new agreement that allowed FAMU to spend the money as it pleased. Not a good idea in light of the financial mismanagement revealed under his watch. A hearing in the Senate Appropriations Committee designed to update the legislature on the expenditures and status of the project was such a disaster; the chairman adjourned the meeting in the middle of a presentation. It was a relief for Black Caucus committee members who got few answers to their questions. The project has been bungled and stalled for nearly three years. Rattler Nation had the details by nightfall. The mainstream media was a day and a half late.
Recently, Rattler Nation broke a disturbing story that had to be told. The journalism school dean loaned an employee $3,000 and threatened her, in writing with exorbitant interest rates compounded if she did not pay it back. She also used FAMU’s email to send it. The provost was told over a month ago, and so far, no action taken. Alumni, students, and faculty are outraged.
Usually, the blog would have to deal with pushback of some sort from university communications. But the lethargic operation has had one press conference in 3 years. Promoting the No. 1 HBCU seems to be difficult for the embattled Kathy Times.
The blog provokes debate about airing FAMU’s problems. Well, the scandals are piled high, suffocating the patient. Do we stop piling on or what? Check out the blog and decide for yourself. Knowledge is a powerful weapon.