What began as a half empty room of swivel chairs and scattered conversations became a heated debate between students Monday night at the Town Hall Meeting in B.L. Perry Rm. 100.
Steven Pargett, a fourth-year public relations student and organizer of the event, said the purpose of the meeting was to build a long-lasting community among FAMU students.
“When we have problems or issues that come up like the restructuring that passed last week, there’s a lot of confusion in the student body and nothing gets done because people have no one to talk to about it,” Pargett said.
The loosely moderated open discussion began with a question and answer session with student body president-elect Breyon Love to help remove any confusion about the new changes implemented in the curriculum.
“Schools all over the country are restructuring. I personally believe this is something that should have been done three years ago,” Love told students Monday.
Dissent about the restructuring changes grew as students threw statistics back and forth, debating which programs should have been spared and what could have been done better to prevent such drastic changes in FAMU’s infrastructure.
Questions ranged from the productivity of online distance learning for non-traditional students to exactly how many professors and positions were being cut. One recurring theme of the night was accountability.
While many students said they were confused about the restructuring process and that it wasn’t tailored for student input, it was also argued that student participation was minimal. One student recalled walking through a packed ‘Set Friday’ and into a restructuring meeting where there were only six in attendance, a circumstance that spoke volumes about student priorities to him.
Louis Jean-Baptiste, a second-year political science student from Palm Beach County, said the conversation was necessary to allow students to vent about their disagreements with the restructuring plan.
“There just needs to be a little more order,” Baptiste said. “It’s not going to be easy, and we still want it to be an informal town hall meeting. We still want the clashes, but we want organized clashes.
Rep. Dwight Bullard of Florida House District 118 said the answer to dealing with FAMU’s restructuring lies in unity, not in division and placing blame.
“I think what happens is that as students, we get caught up in the smaller aspects of things,” Bullard said. “As a FAMU student, you have to understand that there is a larger picture in terms of where the school needs to go and there are certain things that the administration has to do to maintain the survival of the institution.”
Pargett, however, felt the discussion was therapeutic, and gave students the opportunity to hear opposing points of view while gaining a better understanding of the changes being implemented in their curriculum.