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Reactions To FAMU-FSU College Of Engineering Separation Proposal

By: Lanetra Bennett; Florida House Email
By: Lanetra Bennett; Florida House Email
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News Release: Florida House
Updated: April 8, 2014, 4:30pm

Today, a letter from Rep. Alan Williams, chairman of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus, regarding a state budget proposal concerning a proposed College of Engineering in Tallahassee was delivered to legislative leaders and Governor Rick Scott.

A copy of the letter is attached and the text is below. Representative Williams can be reached at 850.717.5008.

April 8, 2014

The Honorable Don Gaetz, Senate President Florida Senate
212 Senate Office Building
Tallahassee, FL 32399

The Honorable Will Weatherford, Speaker
Florida House of Representatives
420 Capitol
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Dear Senate President Gaetz and Speaker Weatherford:
It has been brought to our attention that the Senate has adopted an amendment to the General Appropriations Act that would create a second College of Engineering in Tallahassee, Florida.

Members of the Florida Legislative Black Caucus believe that the adoption of this amendment went outside of the normal process and was absent input from the public, Board of Governors, Boards of Trustees and leadership of both Florida A&M and Florida State Universities. Proposing such an abrupt change without any discussion is alarming and not in the best interest of the citizens of our state. We stand in opposition of the decoupling of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering budget line item.

Further, this action sends the wrong message to the citizens of Florida about how the legislature and academic institutions should interact. We believe that any substantive action of this magnitude should be fully vetted by substantive committees in both chambers.

We respectfully request that this divisive budget amendment be removed from any version of the state budget and not adopted in conference.

Sincerely,

Rep. Alan Williams
FLBC Chairman

cc: The Honorable Rick Scott, Governor


By: Natalie Rubino
April 7, 2014

Tallahassee, FL - A proposal to separate FSU's and FAMU's College of Engineering has taken many people by surprise.

A former president of FAMU'S National Alumni Association is calling the proposal, "racist."

Dr. Joseph Webster said at a press conference this afternoon that he's concerned that the Florida Legislature is supporting the split.

He said that he believes a separation is illegal under the Florida law prohibiting separate but equal practices.

"Tallahassee and the surrounding community need to understand that this is no time to separate, this is time for unity. It's time for moving forward. We have numerous things to address as a country and this is not something that we need to reawaken, that started 400 years ago," Webster said.

Webster says he believes FAMU will lose its College of Engineering all together if the proposal moves forward.

By: Lanetra Bennett
April 7, 2014

Tallahassee, FL - Engineering students are reacting to the proposal to divide the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.

"Word actually spread very, very quickly." Says, FSU Engineering student, Nicolas Venditti.

Just as quick as the Florida Senate approved funding a proposal to create a new engineering school at FSU, it was all the buzz among students at the joint FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.

The proposal would split the shared engineering program, and give FSU $13 million to create its own.

Venditti says, "At first I wasn't really sure what to think. But, the more I think about it, I think it's a good change. Obviously Florida State has a very wide variety of subjects and FAMU's an agriculture mechanical school. So, to have an engineering program that compliments each will be a good thing."

FSU Engineering student, Angel Santiago, says, "I don't think it's really necessary just because right now I think we have a good thing going. But, people do things because I guess they're beneficial, right? So, in the long run, I think it'll be fine."

Administrators at FAMU say FAMU would not be able to sustain its own engineering school.

"I'm pretty distraught about that." FAMU Engineering Student Joshua Johnson, says.

Many are concerned that FAMU would not be fairly funded.

Johnson says, "Even though we're in the same city, same town, different sides of the area; it's lopsided."

FAMU SGA President Anthony Siders says, "Relationships are important, especially for the State of Florida because as we all know S.T.E.M. is at the forefront. It is paramount that we educate and graduate more of our black engineers in the State of Florida because that is the direction of American necessity."

FAMU student body leaders are holding a meeting tonight (Monday) to inform students of the developments and potential impacts. It's at 7 at Lee Hall at FAMU.


News Release: FSU
April 4, 2014, 4:30pm

FSU's Interim President, Dr. Garnett Stokes, issued the following statement regarding the proposal to separate the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering:

A message from FLORIDA STATE UNIVERSITY
Dear Members of the Florida State University Community,

I am honored to serve as Interim President of Florida State University and work side-by-side with you as we move the university forward as one of the nation’s best. During my term as Interim, I plan to regularly update you about our ongoing activities and initiatives. With this first communication, my focus will be on a recent piece of news of great importance to FSU.

You may have heard that Florida State University is pursuing a separate, stand-alone College of Engineering. Having our own college will be instrumental in achieving our goal of being a Top 25 public research university and is important to improving FSU’s performance on the preeminence metrics created by the Florida Legislature and the performance metrics created by the Board of Governors. Nevertheless, we have made clear that FSU cannot pursue our own college without the full commitment of the legislature to protect the academic interests of Florida A&M University and keep their budget whole. The intention is that FAMU would not only keep the portion of the joint college budget that supports FAMU faculty and staff, it would also retain the portion of the joint college budget that currently funds FSU faculty and staff. Retaining ownership of the entire joint college budget frees up substantial funding that allows FAMU to continue its existing programs while building new engineering programs that best align with their own priorities and strategic initiatives.

In order to progress with our preeminence mission and our goal of reaching the Top 25, FSU must increase: the number of faculty, especially in STEM areas; the number of national academy members; the number and amount of funding from grants and contracts; the amount of commercialization; and the number of patents. We will also need to create new programs that play to our strengths, for example, by developing a biomedical engineering degree in conjunction with the College of Medicine or an aeronautical engineering degree with our Center for Aero-Propulsion, Mechatronics and Energy.

FAMU President Mangum and I met yesterday and had a good discussion. FSU is committed to a positive, collegial working relationship with FAMU to assure that the outcomes are positive for both universities. President Mangum and I ended the meeting by agreeing to have members of our staff begin the process of documenting the impact and terms of a separation. To that end I have asked our General Counsel to collaborate with FAMU’s General Counsel as soon as possible to develop an agreement that addresses the needs of students and faculty, a timeline for transition, as well as governance and accreditation issues. It is important that the Florida Legislature act now so that both universities can begin making the necessary investments to assure a complete transition over the next three to four years.

Although this is the beginning of the conversation, I am optimistic that we can work together to create a plan that will protect the engineering programs of both institutions. Most importantly, our priority is the welfare and successful graduation of students at both universities. I have every confidence that the outcome of this situation will be what is best for the well-being of our students, faculty and staff, will advance FSU’s goal of being a Top 25 institution, and will allow us to improve our performance on the metrics outlined by the Florida Legislature and the Board of Governors.

I look forward to continued conversations with President Mangum and her staff as we work through this complex issue for our two universities, the Tallahassee community, and the State of Florida.

Again, I am proud to have the opportunity to serve FSU as Interim President. I anticipate seeing many of you on campus as we head toward the numerous activities leading up to commencement ceremonies in May. I welcome your thoughts on the initiatives FSU is pursuing, so feel free to contact me at any time.

Best,
Garnett

Garnett S. Stokes, Ph.D.
Interim President
Florida State University


By: Lanetra Bennett
April 3, 2014

Tallahassee, FL - A Florida Senator has filed a bill to separate the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.

Administrators at FAMU say they were blindsided by the move, which now leaves them scrambling to fight against it.

Florida Senator John Thrasher has filed a bill that would divide the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering into two separate colleges.

FAMU administrators say they didn't find out about it until Wednesday.

FAMU's Director of Governmental Relations, Tola Thompson, says, "We have not been involved in any prior conversations about any attempts to create a new engineering school in Tallahassee. We felt that we were blindsided."

FSU would get $13 million to start the process of creating its own engineering building.

The FAMU Board of Trustees called an emergency conference call meeting Thursday to discuss the proposal. Administrators say they need a better understanding of how it would impact FAMU.

One thing FAMU President Dr. Elmira Mangum says she does know, is, "We cannot sustain an engineering program at the level that we currently have if we separate the two schools, for a host of reasons, all of which are academic and financial."

FAMU administrators say less than 400 of their students are in the college of engineering, and more than 2,000 are FSU students.

"I am not in favor of the process by which it came to light. Without understanding the impact of this proposal, it is not something that we support at FAMU at this time."

FAMU Trustee Narayan Persaud, Ph.D. says, "We're going back to the days of separate but equal, which we know was not equal." Dr. Persaud also questions the timing of the proposal, being that FAMU is in a transition period with its new president.

Thompson says a similar move was made just before previous university president, Dr. James Ammons, took office. He says officials tried to shift funding to FSU.

The bill was expected to clear the Senate floor Thursday, but, there are several more steps to go.

WCTV was not been able to get a comment from FSU's interim president, Dr. Garnett Stokes, Thursday. However, FAMU President Mangum says she spoke with Dr. Stokes Thursday morning. She says Stokes said, FSU didn't initiate the separation, but, it is a gift to the university.


By Lanetra Bennett
April 3, 2014, 1 p.m.

Tallahassee, Fla. -- FAMU administrators say they were blindsided by a Florida senator's proposal to separate the FAMU-FSU School of Engineering, allowing FSU funding to create its own engineering school.

The FAMU Board of Trustees held an emergency conference call this afternoon to discuss the issue at hand.

During the teleconference, FAMU President Dr. Elmira Mangum said that FAMU does not support the move to separate the engineering school. She says FAMU cannot sustain an engineering school on the same level that it's on now if the separation were to go through.

Dr. Mangum told trustees that she met with FSU's interim president, Garnett Stokes, this morning. She says Dr. Stokes said the proposal is a "gift to FSU." She says FSU supports a separation. FAMU does not.

FAMU Trustee Dr. Narayan Persaud says it feels like they're going back to the days of 'separate but equal'...except things would not be equal.


Statement from FAMU BOT Chair Solomon Badger’s Regarding the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering

We are aware of an amendment filed on Tuesday evening by Senator John Thrasher that would create a second college of engineering in Tallahassee at Florida State University. The FAMU Board of Trustees opposes this move and considers this an unplanned act, which has been 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.

This nation cannot afford to revisit separate, but unequal policies when the collaboration of our two institutions through the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering represents a successful venture for the State of Florida between two research institutions. This long-term collaborative program has received high praise for addressing the underrepresented student populations in engineering disciplines. It is a model program that is an example of the best our higher education entities can produce through partnership.

The Florida Board of Governors has made a concerted effort to reduce duplication of academic programs throughout the State University System. A second engineering school in Tallahassee with competing programs would compromise the integrity of what is an established, successful venture.

Proposing such an abrupt change without any discussion of the aforementioned factors with all parties involved is alarming 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 the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, which has produced successful graduates for both Florida A&M University and Florida State University since 1982.


News Release: Florida A&M University

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida A&M University (FAMU) Board of Trustees has scheduled an emergency called meeting today, April 3, at noon. The general subject matter is the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering.

The public may access the meeting via telephone by dialing (877) 884-1929. The conference ID number is 25159849.

For more information, call (850) 599-3413 or visit: http://www.famu.edu/index.cfm?BOT&AgendasandMinutes.


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