Students protest report to change degree programs

Wearing red T-shirts to symbolize solidarity, students surrounded the Eternal Flame Wednesday in protest of a Pappas Consulting Group report that protesters said threatens the graduate programs at FAMU.

“It is an assault on FAMU and we need to be together,” said protest leader Amir Shabazz. He led nearly 70 students in chants of “One FAMU” on the steps of Lee Hall before leading them to the Eternal Flame. “We need to show the state we are not going to tolerate anything that (the Board of Governors) says,” said the 21-year-old junior philosophy student from Fort Myers.

Bill Edmonds, director of communications for the Board of Governors of the State University System of Florida, said the Pappas report is a recommended solution to the increasing growth of undergraduate enrollment in Florida colleges and universities.

Edmonds said 80,000 students have enrolled in the last 10 years. He said another 50,000 will enroll in the next five to six years.

“How are we going to deal with that kind of enrollment pressure?” Edmonds asked.

Page 15 of the report recommended changing six institutions, including FAMU, into universities that only grant baccalaureate degrees. The report stated participation in the new college system would be voluntary.

However, if needed, the BOG could make the participation of the suggested institutions mandatory.    

“Graduate level programs, if not limited, will be taken away,” Shabazz said. He said schools like the School of Business and Industry and the college of pharmacy, with programs that exceed four years, might be eliminated if the report is acted upon.

But SBI and pharmacy are not the only schools that may be affected.

Architecture student Marquis Coachman said he is concerned about students like himself who attend FAMU on scholarship.

Coachman, 21, from Cottonwood, Ala. has a full football scholarship. He said a lot of students would have to transfer because of time constraints if the report is implemented.

It takes longer than four years to get most degrees these days, he said.

Although Edmonds said the BOG is excited about the students’ concern for the report, he wanted to ensure everyone that the report is only a recommendation.

“We are thrilled they are taking an interest, but they should channel their excitement into constructive contributions,” Edmonds said.

Edmonds said BOG representatives have been going around the state collecting suggestions for a way to address this issue of growth in the undergraduate levels. He said the BOG would like to know what students want to see from their University.

“What would you like FAMU to look like 30 years out?” Edmonds asked. He said students and faculty need to start now to structure “realistic expectations” for the future of FAMU.

Daniel Marte, 19, a music student from Port St. Lucie, agreed with Edmonds’ suggestions and said students should take their questions and concerns directly to administrators instead of just protesting.

“It’s all about working with them,” Marte said.

Edmonds wanted those concerned about FAMU and the Pappas report to know that it is too early to drawn major conclusions about the information in the report.

“The work on the actual plan has yet to begin…this is listening mode,” he said. “You have to have a plan.”

The full Pappas report can be found online at Click on the link “Proposing a Blueprint for Higher Education in Florida: Outlining the Way to a Long-term Master Plan for Higher Education in Florida.”

Edmonds said students could send comments and suggestions through the Web site.