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FAMU’s Chaotic Leadership Hinders the Growth of the University

By Aaliyah Wilkerson
On September 22, 2016

Photo Credit Adlernico Brioche

The Black Lives Matter movement has played a major role in African-American culture since it began in 2012 after the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. The movement has played a role in the increase in enrollment of many historically black colleges and universities, except for Florida A&M University.

President of Dillard University, a private historically black liberal arts college in New Orleans, Walter M. Kimbrough explained the increase of enrollment at HBCUs since the movement began.

“Freshman enrollment is up 49 percent at Shaw University, 39 percent at South Carolina State, 32 percent at Tuskegee University, 30 percent at Virginia State University, 22 percent at Dillard University, 22 percent at Central State University, 20 percent at Florida Memorial University, and 19 percent at Delaware State University,” Kimbrough said. “Dillard, Philander Smith College (overall enrollment up 29 percent) and South Carolina State University all rely on overflow housing to accommodate the influx of students.”

According to FAMU’s website, FAMU had seven presidents, including interim presidents, within the last 15 years. This inconsistency in the university’s leadership definitely plays a role in the decline of freshmen enrollment.

Resident director of FAMU Village East and FAMU alumna Alethea Oliphant said when she attended FAMU the energy on campus was completely different.

“I was a freshman in 1995. We were more cohesive; when you stepped on to campus, you felt a certain energy and you felt just a sense of pride about being present,” Oliphant said.

Lately students have not been feeling that sense of pride anymore because of the lack of stability and organization that has been going on with the administration.

Students believe it is a distraction from their ultimate goal: graduation.

FAMU’s fourth animal science student Victoria Roberts thinks the constant change in leadership has played a role in the decrease of enrollment.

“There is some deeper issue with FAMU going on. They are hindering the progression of the university as a whole,” Roberts said.

Students are not satisfied with the way the university has been operating and have turned to social media as an outlet for their frustrations. This changed the image of the university. If the current students of FAMU do not support their university, how can it be expected of them to help with recruiting prospective students?

Many people have questioned whether the disorganization of an administration is just a “FAMU thing” or an “HBCU thing.”

Tennessee State University’s communication studies coordinator, assistant professor and interim assistant director of forensics, Shante’ LeAmanda Telfer, said this idea comes from people's perspectives.

“I would say we are organized here. I think that some people have a halo of chaos that is being perceived,” Telfer said.

Telfer believes regardless of what university a student, faculty or staff member attends, there will always be a disillusionment or bias that HBCUs are disorganized.

Anthony Rags, second-year English student at Morehouse College, believes the leadership at his HBCU could be more organized and student-orientated as well.

“The leadership at Morehouse varies. The administration is not strong. Our president does not have a good support system from the student body for various reasons,” Rags said. “I do not think our university is strong when it comes to administration.”

African-Americans are living in an era where many movements are encouraging black empowerment and togetherness. FAMU is one of the top HBCUs named by Essence and Money magazine. For the sake of enrollment and current students attending the university, FAMU and its administration should focus on moving FAMU forward. 

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