With a $6 million budget cut and the retiring of 50 faculty and staff members looming, President Fred Gainous said he is confident the university will not have problems coping next year.
The retiring faculty members are a part of the state created Deferred Retirement Option Program. DROP, as it is more commonly referred to, was originally passed in 1998. The program allows public teachers to defer their mandatory retirements an additional five years after they have reached their retirement dates.
As the retirement date draws near Gainous believes that the university will have to “rethink our priorities,” he is sure that the university will replace all retirees.
Students and faculty remain wary.
“If you’re being cut $6 million, there is no way you’re going to maintain the same level of excellence,” said Bobby E. Lang, an assistant professor for the division of Health, Physical Education and Recreation.
“Something has got to give.”
Lang is one of the faculty members who will be retiring June 30.
Dr. Valencia E. Matthews, interim assistant dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, is concerned with how the mass exodus of retiring faculty will affect her already understaffed college.
“How do you build a program if you don’t retain full-time faculty, whose job is to build a reputable program?” she said.
Concerns are also being raised about the quality of the possible replacements.
“I’m not sure that the new talent really understands what this HBCU is really all about,” Lang said.
Some students share similar concerns about the possible replacements.
“You have to care,” said Lemetris Engram, 22, a social work student from Blountstown, Fla. “If you are taught by under-qualified teachers, then how will you be able to go out and do your job effectively?”
“What can they teach us, if they don’t know anything?” said Dianne Gaines, 21, a social work student from Tallahassee, Fla.
Although faculty members are concerned about the progress of the replacement search, they remain optimistic that the university will fill all needed positions for the next year.
“Our hope is not only to replace those who are retiring, but to hire additional staff as well,” Matthews said.
University Spokeswoman LeNedra Carroll said that the president and university officials are sensitive to the apprehensions.
“We are aware that some people are concerned, but again this situation is being addressed and we expect the tradition of excellence with caring will continue.”
Carroll said that the president has asked Interim Provost Gladys Lang and education professor Ada P. Burnette to head a plan to counter the effects of the numerous retiring faculty.
“We’re proceeding with the plan,” Lang said. She feels good about the position they are in regarding the search. “We are positioned well to take care of the situation.”
Garrison L. Vereen II email@example.com