Board of Trustees to Decide on Restructuring Plans this Thursday

As the countdown to decision day approaches, faculty, staff, and students await the final word from the Board of Trustees on what stays and what goes to battle the merciless budget cuts.

President James Ammons announced last Monday at a campus forum focused on the restructuring that about 200 employees will be laid off at the end of June and 22 academic programs will be cut as part of a proposal to deal with the current money crunch.

“With the plan that we have developed, we are hoping that this will be at least a two- year plan so we won’t have to come back here next year with this kind of discussion,” Ammons told a somber in a largely empty Al Lawson Center. “But we won’t know until the Legislature finishes.”

While staff asked questions at the forum, since then, many faculty and administrators have been reluctant to comment on the proposals publicly. Most of them said they did not want to comment on the proposed lay-offs for fear that it may jeopardize their jobs and wanted to wait to hear the final word from the board on Thursday.

During the forum, Ammons promised that the university would have the resources and information for displaced employees who have to find a job during this tough period.

“This has been a very stressful process for this entire university community and it’s not just going on at FAMU, it’s going on all across America,” Ammons said. “We have an employee assistance program that provides counseling around the clock at no cost to our employees.”

According to administration officials, since 2007, Florida A&M has experienced a $35 million reduction to its budget. Now, the university must address the potential 15 percent projected cut, which could result in a $13.3 million reduction for FAMU in fiscal year 2011-12. This reduction will occur in addition to the loss of $7.9 million in stimulus funding.

But Ammons said that with all the cuts over the years and constant talks of lay-offs, none ever took place.

“Over the last four years, with all of the cuts that we have experienced here at the university, we have been able to keep everyone employed,” Ammons said.

But this time may be different as the cuts have been too massive.

“We have information posted on the university website under restructuring that is designed to assist any employees that have been or will be displaced,” Ammons said.

Along with the talks of different cuts to make the university a more efficient area of learning, many had complaints about what is being cut and what will remain.

Coordinator of Language and Study Abroad Programs Mary Diallo is one of many who had a strong opinion of what is being cut.

Diallo defended the foreign language program as it wasup for elimination.

“Will the Hip-hop Institute be eliminated along with the degree program in foreign language and how does this support our mission?” Diallo quizzed Ammons during the campus forum.

Ammons said that his team looked at enrollments, number of degrees granted, the number of grant dollars that have been generated by faculty in those departments and they fell into a category of being low-productivity programs.

Diallo later explained that the foreign language department hardly had the tools it needed to adequately teach students in the program.

“Excellence with caring appears all over this restructuring document but in our case, we can’t get the basic tools to teach our classes,” Diallo said. “In the fall of this year, our chair announced that language professors will not be able to have copies made in the copy center because there was not money in the department’s budget. I was incensed especially since the university just announced that the athletic director was going to receive a $120,000 raise.”