Florida Lawmakers Delay Proposed School Split

By: Andy Alcock; James Buechele; Natalie Rubino Email
By: Andy Alcock; James Buechele; Natalie Rubino Email
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Associated Press News Release
April 28, 2014

The Florida Senate on Sunday offered to back away from a proposal to split up the Florida A&M University and Florida State University. Instead the Senate is asking the Florida Board of Governors to study the idea and vote by next March.


Associated Press News Release
April 25, 2014

House Speaker Will Weatherford says the Florida House is in "no rush" to approve a split of the joint engineering college run by Florida A&M University and Florida State University.

The Florida Senate had set aside $13 million for a new engineering college to be run by FSU. But FAMU officials and supporters oppose the move. The proposal is one of the sticking points in budget negotiations that need to be worked out between the House and Senate.

Weatherford said he wants the Florida Board of Governors to weigh in on the proposal before taking any action. The statewide board oversees the state university system.

Weatherford's father-in-law is currently the chairman of the FSU board of trustees. FSU officials have come out in favor of the split.


Updated by: Natalie Rubino
April 23, 2014

Florida State University's student senate voted Wednesday night on a resolution against a state senate proposed split of FSU's and FAMU's College of Engineering.

The resolution failed 25-19 but the student sponsors of the legislation say it's important that FSU's and FAMU's student body work together so that everyone's opinion could be heard.

"With the FSU campus joining forces with FAMU, you have both entities that are involved in this process, saying that they are against the split. And I would hope that the state legislature and the people involved in the decision process will listen to the students being impacted by it," Eugene Butler, FSU Student Senator said.

Several students from both FSU and FAMU spoke to the student senate Wednesday, urging them to pass the resolution.

"I feel like there's nothing wrong with our school. This split was down to one man's decision and I feel like it's unfair that we didn't have a say," Samuel Ichite, FSU College of Engineering Student said.

Many worry the split will hurt FAMU more than it would FSU and some FSU students say they don't want that to be the case.

"Being that I'm a Florida State student, it does look like this is a great opportunity for FSU but at what cost? What does it cost everyone else? It's a great working environment. This is a place where people thrive and this is a place where there's opportunity for all students," Ichite added.

Ruben Nelson has spent a total of ten years in the College of Engineering, earning his undergraduate degree and PhD, he says it's the combined resources that make the college successful.

"Very few universities have this kind of partnership and it's definitely something to be proud of because a lot of people can't say this when they go out into the job market," Nelson said.

FAMU's student government also addressed the issue a few weeks ago voting against the split.

Approval of the proposal is still making its way through the state legislature.

Update by: James Buechele
4-16-14

"We would like to see a college of engineering here in Tallahassee," said Tallahassee city commissioner Gil Ziffer.

He hopes that the ongoing feud between the two Division-I schools over the college of engineering gets settled peacefully.

"We got an awful lot of people that live in this city that work in the college of engineering and we want to make sure that they continue to have those jobs."

Commissioner Andrew Gillum repeated those thoughts.

"Anything that threatens the viability of one of them is a problem for all of them and more greatly it's a problem for the citizens of Tallahassee," added Gillum.

For the most part, the city commission has chosen a hands-off approach regarding the spat. Both commissioners we spoke with say it's really between the two universities.

"We're not the lead on this," said Ziffer. "This is between FSU FAMU and our legislature. Hopefully they're sitting down they're talking about it working it through."

"This situation can be best worked out by getting the leadership at Florida a&m and Florida State University to sit down together," added Gillum.

Commissioner Gillum says everyday citizens would be hurt the most if two colleges were created.

"There are still taxpayers out there who are struggling to make ends meet contributing their fair share to the state to have us then create duplicate programs in the city of Tallahassee."


Five former FAMU presidents say they oppose the split of the
FAMU-FSU Engineering School into two separate schools.

In a joint statement, the former presidents called the move by Senator John Thrasher "sudden, unplanned and void of discussion from the presidents of the two universities."

Raising concerns about the cost of two separate schools, the statement says "A second program in Tallahassee would compromise what is already a very successful venture."

"Sentor Thrasher, slow down," said FAMU Student Body President Anthony Sider II at a rally last week. "You are substituting your judgment for the Florida Board of Governors, the Board of Trustees of both institutions and the presidents of both institutions," he said.

When asked if state government could afford two separate engineering schools in Tallahassee, Senator Thrasher said, "Absolutely, we fund multiple schools. We have a number of universities with similar programs, so the answer is yes."

The proposal to split the two schools is waiting for a joint Senate-House conference committee meeting.

Addressing rumors he might be interested in becoming FSU's next president, Senator Thrasher said he's focused on his current job and has filed for re-election.

The five former FAMU presidents to sign the joint statement are Walter Smith, Frederick Humphries, Fred Gainous, James Ammons and Larry Robinson.


Joint Statement From Former FAMU Presidents:

Tallahassee, Fla. -- As former leaders of Florida A&M University, we oppose the move to decouple the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering and consider this a sudden and unplanned act, void of discussion and input from the current leadership of the two universities, the university Boards of Trustees and the Florida Board of Governors. This action sends the wrong message to the citizens of Florida, and other interested parties, about how the Legislature and academic institutions should interact.

The FAMU-FSU College of Engineering is a strong program that represents a successful collaboration for the State of Florida between two research institutions with elements of their student populations woefully underrepresented in engineering disciplines. Through this long-term collaborative effort, the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering has received high praise for addressing this nationwide dilemma.

A second program in Tallahassee would compromise the integrity of what is already a very successful venture. Furthermore, one can only look to our sister university, Florida Polytechnic University, to see how expensive it is to support a stand-alone engineering program in today's economy. In fact, a major focus of the Florida Board of Governors over the past few years has been a concerted effort to reduce duplication of academic programs throughout the State University System.

Proposing such a drastic change without any obvious consideration or discussion of the above factors is surprising and not in the best interest of our State University System or the citizens of Florida. As an alternative, we request that the Legislature provide additional support to our existing program, which has produced successful graduates for both Florida A&M University and Florida State University since 1982.

With all due respect to the power and authority of the Legislature to appropriate funding, we respectfully request engagement in a collaborative process to include both academic institutions and our governing bodies to determine how such funding will be used to build on our past successes. We are pleased to work transparently within appropriate guidelines and authorities to create life-changing opportunities for students in Florida to pursue a quality education in engineering through the joint engineering program.

Sincerely,

Walter Smith, Ph.D. (President 1977-1985)
Frederick Humphries, Ph.D. (President 1985-2001)
Fred Gainous, Ph.D. (President 2002-2004)
James Ammons, Ph.D. (President 2007-2012)
Larry Robinson, Ph.D. (Interim President 2012-2014)


Updated by: James Buechele
April 10, 2014, 11:10 p.m.

FAMU officials say they're just looking out for their own students.

The Herbert F. Morgan building houses both FAMU and FSU's college of engineering. But FAMU officials are planning for the future in case the two schools can't come to an agreement.

"We're not in favor of the split," said FAMU provost Rodner Wright.

President Elmira Mangum sent a letter to Florida Governor Rick Scott asking for $100 million to start a new school. Most of that money would go towards a new building on FAMU's campus.

"You have to hire new faculty. You have to have start up costs and you have to buy adequate equipment."

The joint college of engineering costs $16.5 million to operate on an annual basis.

Her letter, which you can read attached to this story, asks for a five year transition with a two-year funded planning process, $15 million in reoccurring funds for the operating budget and another $100 million towards a new building on campus.

"We've been trying to ascertain what the impact would be not only on our students in particular and how you would phase out the separation."

Governor Scott's office sent us this statement.
"Governor Scott will review any final proposal agreed upon by
the Legislature and will make the best decision for all of the students of FAMU and FSU."


Updated By: James Buechele
April 10, 2014, 6pm

FAMU officials are warning lawmakers against splitting up the College of Engineering.

The HBCU says it would need $100 million if that happens.

WCTV asked the FAMU Provost Rodner Wright what that money would go towards if they were to get it:

"Included in that $100 million is a $15 million recurring cost. The $100 million really includes not only a new building on campus but also start up costs. Because significant to hire new faculty start up costs and you have to buy adequate equipment and so on and so forth," said Wright.


Associated Press News Release

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) -- Florida A&M University officials are warning top state officials it will cost more than $100 million if a plan to split the school's engineering college is approved.

Senate Republicans are pushing a proposal to separate the engineering college now run jointly with nearby Florida State University. They have put $13 million in the budget to pay for it.

FAMU remains opposed to the proposal. But school officials have distributed an outline that says the state's public historic black college would need more than $100 million if legislators approve the split.

FAMU President Elmira Mangum has told Gov. Rick Scott that the state could risk federal intervention over the separation. Mangum wrote in a letter there needed to be more discussion and review before any final decision is reached.


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