Students, faculty lobby legislators

Florida A&M students mingled with legislators to push the University’s priorities for the 2005 legislative session at the annual FAMU Day at the Legislature Wednesday.

On the 22nd floor of the Capitol, faculty, students and alumni networked with state legislators as the melody from FAMU’s flute choir weaved between conversations.

Interim President Castell V. Bryant opened the luncheon by greeting and introducing legislators who were present. Many of which showed their collegiate spirit by shouting their fraternity or sorority calls.

Bryant spoke of the need for FAMU to be given the same funding that other institutions receive.

“They (legislators) have our commitment that we will do what we should do,” Bryant said.

Six-foot rattler snakes made of balloons and billboards displaying the schools and colleges within the University transformed the meeting area into a shrine that beamed the accomplishments of the institution.

“It’s a tradition for all institutions to have a day at the Capitol to show their programs and talk to legislators about legislative priority,” said Jackie Maxey, Florida A&M University lobbyist.

Maxey said the University has already been budgeted $3.5 million for the College of Law and another $1 million for Office of Civil Rights Agreement.

According to the FAMU’s budget request, the College of Law will use the money to support enrollment and provide the resources needed for accreditation by the American Bar Association and The Association of American Law Schools.

The $1 million for the Office of Civil Agreement is a part of a $7.5 million commitment that the state made to the FAMU in 1998.

The University has received $6 million to date. The funding helps with programs that deal with access, graduation and retention issues.

Alumni visited legislators in their offices before the luncheon began, and Vice President for the Leon County Chapter of FAMU National Alumni Association, John Haugabrook, said they were received graciously and it proved helpful.

“Given the conversation with Sen. Alfred “Al” Lawson (D-Tallahassee) about funding FAMU’s budget priority we are very optimistic on the funding FAMU will receive,” Haugabrook said.

Prominent members of FAMU’s student body felt the need to be present at the event.

Miss FAMU 2004-2005 Brooke Smith said that it was important for her to attend the event because it is her duty to represent the student body. She is also looking to build relationships with legislators.

Sen. Larcenia Bullard, D-Miami, said she is concerned for her constituents at FAMU, which are the students.

Bullard said block tuition is a subject that she cares about because she has a student in college, and that the issue of block tuition doesn’t have much support.

“I don’t want to do anything that might hurt my pocket,” Bullard said.

Bullard also said that during the senate meeting Sen. Evelyn J. Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, proposed an amendment to redirect the appropriation of the College of Law funding.

“She wanted to take the money and send it all to McKnight Alzheimer’s Center, but it didn’t go anywhere,” Bullard said.

Bullard said the chair encouraged her to withdraw because she knew that she did not have the vote to back her amendment.

Rep. Frank Peterman Jr., D-St. Peterman, made it clear that the University shouldn’t worry about the priorities on the budget because FAMU is in the minds of some legislators.

“As a legislator we are going to back them (FAMU) on all their endeavors,” Peterman said.

Leaders at FAMU are confidant in the support that they will receive from the legislators and are encouraged about the university’s growth.

“FAMU is here forever,” Bryant said.

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