Students, alumni react as SJGC abruptly changes deans

New acting dean Bettye Grable. Photo courtesy

Many students in FAMU’s School of Journalism & Graphic Communication were stunned by the sudden announcement Friday that SJGC’s dean, Michelle Ferrier, had been replaced by Associate Professor Bettye Grable, who will serve as acting dean.

Students and alumni did not take this news lightly.

“It really just makes me feel like I can’t trust the administration because these many changes in who’s dean mean something is deeply flawed either in the selection process of our dean or in faculty trust in leadership,” said Simone Williams, a senior journalism major.

Eric Winkfield, an SJGC alum who’s a public affairs manager for Pepco Holdings and an adjunct professor at West Virginia University, posted, “I’m confident about this move. Dr. Grable’s heart and passion is in ensuring that excellence is achieved … I’m not clear on what is happening but the FAMU J-school is in wonderful hands.”

Friday afternoon’s announcement on FAMU INFO did not give a reason for Ferrier’s removal nor did it mention her name. Several students expressed dissatisfaction with the lack of information.

President of the FAMU chapter of the National Association of Black Journalist, Tracey Belizaire said, “They should include us more in these conversations and decision making because students are most affected by this than anyone else.”

During Ferrier’s 18 months as dean, SJGC lost two professors, Kalisha Whitman and a former dean, Ann Wead Kimbrough. It resulted in some professors receiving added classes and the shortage of credentialed instructors remains.

Former SJGC dean Michelle Ferrier. Photo courtesy

Grable’s appointment takes place a month after the Tallahassee Democrat reported that Ferrier is suing a former staff member, Patrice Monroe, for repayment of a personal loan. The transaction became public after Rattler Nation, a blog covering FAMU related news, published the agreement in October. It included a 50 percent interest rate. The blog also reported that Ferrier is under investigation by FAMU.

“Leadership in SJGC and FAMU as a whole has a long reputation of being reckless and self-serving,” said Christopher “CJ” Bryant, a graduating senior and journalism major.

The common concern for students is whether this will affect the school’s accreditation. In January of this year, a site team recommended re-accreditation for the journalism division. The two-person team said it would recommend full accreditation to the governing council. However, final determination for the accreditation won’t be announced until April.

Grable will be the fourth dean SJGC has had in four years.

“I think having a new dean appointment in the middle of the semester raises red flags for our SJGC family,” said DeAsia Robinson, a senior from St. Petersburg who is in her final semester.

“I believe that Grable has the ability to run SJGC smoothly, but I feel that the switch will possibly hinder the school’s accreditation,” said Calvin Robbins, a senior from Miami.

Ruelle Fludd, who graduated in December and is a news reporter at WCJB TV in Gainesville, voiced support for Grable.

“I truly hope she becomes the actual dean.”

Fludd said that Grable’s class was tough but the skills she learned in class she uses today in her career.

“Even after taking her, she was a pleasure to be around and talk to,” Fludd said.

Grable began teaching at SJGC in 2006 as a public relations professor. She also earned her master’s at FAMU.

Ferrier’s removal took place the same day she hosted a workshop about disinformation and the 2020 elections. Ferrier did not respond to a request for comment. Grable was not immediately available.