Faculty demands pay raise from Board

Florida A&M University’s Board of Trustees met at the university’s law school campus in Orlando on Thursday and were addressed again by members of FAMU’s faculty and United Faculty of Florida regarding a pay raise. During the morning portion of the meeting, Interim President Castell V. Bryant mentioned UFF and the issue of a pay raise as one of the things she looked forward to in the coming year. “We have received a letter from UFF wanting to restart negotiations. We’ll begin again soon,” she said. When the board took a short break for lunch, members of the faculty were waiting in the lobby. They held signs showing graphs of raises for Board of Trustee members, raises the board has given and raises at FAMU DRS, among others. When members of the audience were allowed to make comments at the end of the meeting, Bill Tucker, FAMU UFF president, Reginald Beal, chief negotiator for FAMU UFF, and Tom Oxter, state president of UFF, all spoke. The three noted that every university in the state had given raises to its faculty, except FAMU. “It sends the wrong message that FAMU is the only one in the state that doesn’t have a raise,” Oxter said. Beal called for the board to set a date for negotiations to resume. “Not a single meeting has been held. We have tried consistently to get a specific date,” Beal said. Following his statements, Tucker said he was open to questions and comments. When there were none he added: “I thought so. What a shame.” Trustee Corey Alston, who was serving at his first meeting, asked what the financial implications were of UFF’s requests. When Trustee William Jennings pointed out that the board was planning on negotiations and that the meeting was not the appropriate time, Jennings rescinded his question. Tucker offered to answer the question, but was asked to sit down. Trustee R.B. Holmes Jr., who was via telephone, expressed interest in the faculty’s requests. “Let’s get back to the table. If there’s a surplus, we should give that back to the faculty of FAMU,” Holmes said. Members of the faculty and UFF sang “We Shall Overcome” as they filed out of the room. One group that did succeed in swaying the board with its appeals was former College of Pharmacy Dean Henry Lewis III and Interim Dean Robert Thomas. Earlier in the meeting, Trustee Al Cardenas submitted the Facilities Planning Committee’s recommendation that funds earmarked for the phase two of the pharmacy school expansion should be used on other projects. Trustee Ramon Alexander expressed concern over the amount of space in the College of Pharmacy and how this would affect its accreditation. During the last accreditation of the College of Pharmacy, the school was told that there were not enough facilities for the number of students, and that FAMU needed to construct more. Various members of the board noted that phase one of the construction had been completed since then, and seemed to agree there would be ample space to satisfy accreditors when they visit next year. However, when Lewis spoke, he warned that, “We won’t be in compliance with accreditation.” Thomas echoed his sentiments. “We truly believe this will have a negative impact,” he said. Holmes said he was impressed by the two deans’ comments, and that perhaps the issue should be sent back to the committee for further review. Members of the board discussed the issue, and Alston made a motion to send the issue back to the committee. The board voted in favor of Alston’s motion. Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Fiscal Affairs Gerald Dunn presented the board with a report on the first six months of the fiscal year 2005. His report showed that FAMU collected $173.9 million of actual revenue, about $1 million more than projected. Dunn also said that the university had spent $166.1 million during that time, about $13 million less than projected. Trustee Mary Diallo asked about the report from state auditors, which Bryant said she is waiting on before discussing salary increases with UFF. Dunn said that auditors expect to have that report ready around the end of March. The board also discussed the reaffirmation of the school by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Vivian Hobbs, Director of the SACS Reaffirmation Committee submitted a report detailing issues that still need to be resolved from the 1998 review. Most of the concerns came in the area of distance learning, and she said SACS would be returning soon to see how the school has done in improving these issues. They will also be returning in 2008 for the beginning of a new reaffirmation review. Cardenas said he was very concerned about the SACS review. “There is nothing more important to this university than the SACS reaccredidation program,” he said. Hobbs said, “We’re not going to do well on some things, but the biggest thing to come out of this administration is that the budget is balanced. If not, they (SACS) would have been forced to act.” At the start of his first meeting, Alston addressed the board. He pledged $50,000 over five years to the university, and then presented the board with the first of what he said would be yearly $10,000 checks. “It’s a small contribution back to the school that has given me so much. I am very excited to return to my alma mater and to serve on the board,” he said. At the close of the meeting, which will be his last, Alexander addressed the board. “We’re pricing our students out of an education,” Alexander warned. He said he hoped to see the student services building moved up in the 10 year plan. Alexander also said it was a pleasure serving on the board. Trustee Leerie Jenkins returned the sentiments. “I appreciate the opportunity of working and serving with you,” he said. Other members of the board agreed with Jenkins, and joined members of the audience in applauding Alexander.

Mackenzie Turberville can be reached at famuannews@hotmail.com