The former dean of Florida A&M University’s School of Journalism and Graphic Communication is taking serious action against the current dean of the school.
According to Tallahassee Democrat, Michelle Ferrier was placed on administrative leave this year and associate professor Bettye Grable was brought on as the acting dean of the School of Journalism. The Democrat reports, Ferrier accuses Grable of “essentially cyberstalking her” and harassing her via pen-names or anonymous posts on blogs and social media. Ironically, Ferrier’s academic specialty is studying and combatting online harassment.
Ferrier filed a stalking complaint against Grable on Saturday, according to Leon County court dockets. She took the action just one day after she was placed on administrative leave by FAMU Provost Maurice Edington.
Chief Circuit Judge Jonathan Sjostrom has taken on the case, which is set to have a hearing for March 19.
Ferrier is fighting for a court order to keep Grable no less than 500 feet away at all times. Her filing lists several online posts from Rattler Nation, an anonymous blog that covers FAMU news. She also lists various tweets and an article that ran in the Jacksonville Free Press, which is a black weekly. The newspaper articles were published under the byline, “Dante Morrison,” which Ferrier believes is an alias used by Grable. She says other aliases include “Da Rattler,” and that Grable uses the handle @rattlernation for social media.
One article with the headline “FAMU Professors Salvage Journalism School Accreditation” was published in the Jacksonville Free Press under the Morrison byline. It portrays Ferrier in a bad light as mishandling the school’s formal response to the accreditation council.
Ferrier’s court filing is the latest incident in a series of unwanted coverage of the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication, which is one of FAMU’s signature programs considering its history of producing a long list of respected graduates. The filing comes as the school is pressed to regain full accreditation.
In another legal action that Ferrier reported last month, she filed a small claims lawsuit against a former subordinate for failure to repay a personal loan. Ferrier and Patrice Campbell Monroe, who is no longer employed at FAMU, settled the issue during a mediation hearing this week. The details remain confidential. Monroe also had her own complaint against Ferrier, which she communicated with Edington, who turned it over to the university’s ethics and compliance division. The details of this investigation have yet to be revealed.
On Friday at 6 p.m., Florida A&M released a statement announcing Grable’s appointment as “acting” dean of the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication. They didn’t explain the details surrounding the sudden switch and Ferrier’s name was not mentioned.
Edington held separate meetings with students in a town hall and with school faculty, and he said that “both (sessions) were good.”
However, he declined to expound upon the reason for Ferrier’s removal and his selection of Grable. The FAMUAN student newspaper reported that Edington told them the decision to remove Ferrier came after an administrative review with FAMU President Larry Robinson.
“In theory, she could come back as dean,” he said. “We have not made any further decision.”
Ferrier took on the role of dean in August 2018 and began on October 1. She was granted tenure when she was hired by FAMU. Ann Kimbrough and Dhyana Ziegler were the two former deans and they remained on staff as tenured professors after they left their top post. The two have since left FAMU.
Now with Grable acting as dean, she becomes the fourth person to hold the position in four years. When asked about the school’s revolving deanships, Edington labeled it “unfortunate.”
“Our goal is to stabilize the program,” he said.
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