Famuan staff walks out

Because of the University’s failure to issue paychecks to the staff of The Famuan, the student newspaper of Florida A&M University, several staff members are on strike.

The staff members walked out after a Sunday meeting with Dean James Hawkins and Journalism Division Director Dorothy Bland of the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication and the newspaper’s co-advisers James Stephens and Valerie D. White.

During that meeting, the administrators attempted to answer questions as to why the students had no paychecks and explained to them how crucial their role was.

“Obviously, it is an individual decision, ” Hawkins said.

“Each person has to decide that for her or himself. I would hope the students would consider the service they’re providing the FAMU community while making their decision.”

Hawkins said he would request on-demand payments for the students of The Famuan first thing this morning.

If granted, those checks would provide compensation for the students immediately instead of waiting until the next pay period.

Hawkins’ plan, however, did little to calm some of the angry staff members.

“While The Famuan staff understands we provide a service to the community, it is unfair to have to work for free,” said Driadonna Roland, a 20-year-old broadcast journalism student from Detroit. “It’s not about the money at all. That’s not why we do our jobs. It’s just disrespect.”

Roland, who serves as copy desk chief at The Famuan, said the lack of a paycheck is especially insulting because of the extra hours that staff members already put in and are not compensated for.

Samantha Long, the deputy online editor, said her decision to strike was based on principle.

“I’ve never seen an instance where you get people’s attention by not being defiant,” Long said. “If I would have sat there and pretended like everything was OK, it would have been a slap in my own face.”

Long said that she understands why The Famuan still had to go press. “I understand that we have advertisers and we have to honor those contracts. I think that printing just enough pages for the ads, and squeezing stories around them is a good compromise. I just refuse to be a part of it.”

A few staff members did decide to stay on the job. Robbyn Mitchell, the business editor, said her decision was mainly based on habit.

“I’m continuing to work because I can’t see myself doing anything else on a Sunday night, and I don’t want to think of how the University would be if there was no Famuan,” said Mitchell, a 21-year-old newspaper journalism student from Washington.

Editor in Chief Alaythia C. Burkins echoed that sentiment.

“I’m in full support of my staff, but I remain here because the student body still needs their news and information,” said Burkins, a 24-year-old business administration student from West Orange, N.J. “I think everyone had to do what’s right for themselves and their situation.”