The School of Graduate Studies and Research will be eliminated this summer, according to Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Cynthia Hughes-Harris.
During an interview Tuesday, Hughes-Harris said the elimination of graduate studies is by no means a reflection of the importance of graduate programs or students. She added that graduate studies programs or students would not be eliminated.
“Our primary mission right now is teaching. That is what we do. That is our mission as a university,” said Hughes-Harris. “So whatever we do, we wanted to make certain that we protect that mission of teaching and with that being said, we looked at our non-teaching non-credited generating units.”
Hughes-Harris said the school does not contribute the mission FAMU aims to fulfill.
“We identified three non-credit generating units, one of those being the division of graduate studies and research,” said Hughes-Harris. “That is a unit that doesn’t generate credits, and the employees in that unit do not teach. So, what we decided was to eliminate the unit from the university structure.”
FAMU saved jobs in graduate studies a year and a half ago by using some of the $8 million of stimulus funding given to the school by President Obama to keep people in their positions. The stimulus funding kept some employees on board, but only until June 20, 2011, marking the end of graduate studies this summer.
“By making that decision, we adhere to the mandate that we had to cut funding. We had to cut our bottom line,” said Hughes-Harris. “That helped us do that. We had not many alternatives if we wanted to continue to save people in their jobs. So we began to look at our university structure in a different way.”
Graduate studies will be the responsibility of each individual school, once the graduate studies program is dissolved, according to Hughes-Harris.
According to the FAMU website, the mission of the School of Graduate Studies and Research works collaboratively with all academic units to educate and train future scholars, teachers, researchers and professionals and to produce knowledge and research in the fields and areas in which they will work. The school also recruits, enrolls and retains domestic and international students while ensuring a well facilitated graduate admission process. Graduate studies works closely with graduate students as their advocate, support system and gives guidance throughout their graduate journey.
“By dissolving this department you essentially are doing the university an injustice,” said Kenneth Cooper, graduate student association president. “Think of all the students that we have in the MBA programs, pharmacy programs or education leadership. This does absolutely nothing to help them. How can we say if we are trying to ascend to a top tier university, in terms of graduate studies and research, if we are not putting the proper resources towards that by dissolving this program,” said Cooper.
Hughes-Harris said that graduate students will be taken care of.
“The function of graduate studies is important, so that means we will continue to support graduate education,” said Hughes-Harris. “It is as important to us today, as it was yesterday and tomorrow.”
Graduate students said graduate studies will be missed and it will be difficult for them to find their way once it is gone.
“Graduate studies provides opportunities, initiatives, chances to earn fellowships, to earn the chance to not be so indebted to loans and financial burdens,” said Cooper.
” I feel like graduate studies is like our mentor,” said Regina Watson, graduate student. “When you take our mentor away, we are trying to figure it out on our own. It’s like you’re leaving us to fend for ourselves.”
Elizabeth Davenport, FAMU’s United Faculty of Florida president, said to watch events as they unfold. She thinks FAMU cannot survive in its current structure.
“I think you cannot have graduate education without a graduate school in some form or fashion,” said Davenport. “I would assume our provost and president also know that given their emphasis on graduate studies.”