Provost tells SJGC students: ‘You are our main priority’

Provost Maurice Edington and Professor William Jiles address SJGC students.
Photo by Ralph Cantave

After Friday’s sudden announcement of Florida A&M University’s School of Journalism and Graphic Communication’s new Dean appointment, FAMU’s Provost Maurice Edington met with students to discuss the changes in faculty and answer student questions. Acting Dean Bettye Grable also spoke to students about their concerns.

The town hall at the Charles Winterwood Theatre in Tucker Hall followed a meeting the Provost hosted earlier on Monday with faculty. Information about the meeting is forthcoming.

Edington spent an hour listening and talking to students who posed multiple questions about the status of SJGC, their education and future plans.

Many students were curious about the cause leading to the removal of former Dean, Michelle Ferrier. Edington repeated that he could not comment on personnel matters. When asked if the choice to immediately remove Ferrier in the middle of the semester, and an accreditation evaluation period was warranted, Edington said the decision had to be made after an administrative review with President Larry Robinson.

Edington stated that no decision has yet been made to search for a new Dean and Grable will remain as acting Dean until further notice. Edington assured students that the process of selecting a Dean will be transparent and will entail a carefully structured search team and profile.

“I’m going to commit that you have a stable and highly functional program,” Edington said.

Working with Dean Grable will be Sonya Stephens, who Grable lauded as an experienced and qualified administrator. Stephens will serve as associate dean. Stephens formerly served as chair for the Department of Mathematics and associate dean of the college of science and technology.

She says her goal is “to keep the school of journalism at the level that the public knows us as, and that is creating exceptional students who go out into the industry and help define the new trends and are active and knowledgeable.”

She also said that she’s excited to work with our faculty and leadership.

Marquel Bowen, a public relations senior expressed concerns about the effect the recent changes will have on the school’s reputation. Edington stated that the leadership turnovers at SJGC are not ideal but he is impressed with the quality work he sees in the school and through conversations with industry representatives, they maintain respect for graduates of SJGC.

“When you walk through J school hallways the culture is not even the same,” said Rickayla Mitchell, a graduating senior. Mitchell expressed frustration over the negative changes she’s witnessed during her time linked to poor communication and instability of administrative leadership. “We’ve lost two great professors in one year and I’ve never seen that before” she added.

One more student also shared her dissatisfaction with the changes in advisors in recent years.

“I don’t try to make unilateral decisions, I will take your concerns to Professor Jiles and the rest of the faculty because I believe in shared governance among the faculty,” Grable said to students.

Grable said in her tenure she will address any other concerns students may have. “I think we should have a student on every committee that exists in journalism. At least while I’m here… that is what we will do. We need more student input.”

In regards to worries about accreditation, the acting Dean said that an account of the status will be given to the students soon. Grable concluded by stating another meeting with students will be hosted if necessary. She said she did not expect the position and she will provide students with an update about her plans as she settles in the new position.

Both Edington and Grable notified students that they have an open-door policy for any further questions.