Faculty slow to speak about possible layoffs

Faculty and staff members could be in jeopardy of losing their jobs because of the burden that a decreased budget would place on the University’s finances.

“We have to cut 30 positions,” University President James H. Ammons said in a student forum held Feb. 1. “All 30 of these positions are occupied, so we’re talking about layoffs.”

Although the budget cuts announced in January could be a burden, FAMU would have to lay off 30 faculty and staff members in order to reach a budget target that had been set for the University.

“Budget cuts are budget cuts,” said Jermaine Robertson, Ph.D., a professor in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Robertson is a 9-month contracted employee, and like all faculty and staff members, he is facing the possibility of having to search for new employment this summer.

“I am upset, but I understand that the state of Florida is in a serious financial bind,” Robertson said.

FAMU is possibly facing another $4 million dollar budget cut.

“The cuts are not unique to FAMU, but they are state cuts,” Robertson said. “It’s unfortunate that education is the first thing to get cut. Education should be prioritized.”

At the Feb. 1 student forum, Ammons said Florida is in a financial crisis, forcing FAMU, along with other Florida universities, to pay one percent per quarter to the state.

Although there is another possible budget cut on the horizon, FAMU officials clarified that no layoffs have been set in stone.

“As of this moment none of the faculty members has been laid off,” said FAMU Spokeswoman Sharon Saunders. “We won’t make any decisions until after the legislative session is over.”

Saunders said the session would not end until May 2.

This gap in time should allow faculty and staff members to at least finish the spring 2008 semester. But according to Ammons, second round cuts might begin as early as March.

Many faculty and staff were reluctant to speak on record about the possibility of layoffs.

One political science professor said “I don’t want to discuss my feelings on the issue because it may cost me my job.”

Another budget cut could also mean more hardship for the student populace.

“All Floridians should be upset about the cuts because we’re spending billions of dollars to support wars, but government can’t provide us with money for education,” Robertson said. “It’s hurting the students.”

A five-percent tuition increase was already OK’d by the Board of Trustees for this semester. This was followed by another increase of eight percent set to take effect by the fall semester. The latter decision made by the Board of Governors makes the total tuition increase 13 percent.

Because some students receive financial aid, perhaps they don’t mind the budget cuts or the tuition increase. The government is paying for their tuition.

“The increase in tuition doesn’t affect me much,” said Ashley Nelson, a third-year pharmacy student from Port St. Lucie. “Bright Futures pays 75 percent of my tuition.”

Students who receive financial aid may be forced to take out additional loans to cover future expenses. This may certainly be the case if the received aid already falls short of their needs.

Also graduating seniors may actually be carrying that title for a little while longer, as class sizes become larger and the number of courses becomes fewer.

If the budget cuts occur, the upcoming summer session will offer fewer sections and fewer courses.

“It sucks,” said Philip Singleton, a senior economics student from Palm Beach Gardens. “I plan on graduating in the summer. I’ve been here four and a half to five years and now they talking about some budget cut. It’s depressing.”