Student recalls account of academic failure

Pierce Scott, 20, a second-year psychology student from Jacksonville, was a good high school student. He graduated with a 3.5 grade point average and considered himself a nerd, though he said he doesn’t look like one.

Scott came to Florida A&M University fall 2008 and is now a victim of student academic probation.

“I lost my drive when people kept telling me that I would not make any money without a master’s or doctorate’s degree in psychology,” Scott said. “It’s not that school was hard, I just didn’t care to go to class.” Scott said all his friends were excelling, while he just skated toward failure.

Students are required to maintain a C average to be considered passing. This means they must pass 67 percent of their classes per semester with at least a 2.0 grade point average.

Those who fail to do so are placed on academic probation. Typically, the university will allow two consecutive semesters of probation, which gives students time to improve.

Some students expressed that being on academic probation is heart breaking, and its gives way to being ridiculed by staff members when they go to address them about their issues.

Some professors agreed that the treatment that these embarrassed students, who choose to remain nameless because of the sensitivity of the subject, experienced is usually necessary to serve as motivation to do better as college students, while other faculty believe the university works to accommodate the students as much as they can.

“FAMU is a lot more lenient than other institutions when compromising with the students; our forgiveness policy is one example,” said William Hudson, director of retention. “FAMU students are typically first generation and economically disadvantaged individuals; the university must be willing to help work around sensitive issues.”

Hudson said most of the cases occur during a student’s first year due to negative academic and personal decisions.

“We want students to engage socially, but most freshmen are not accustomed to managing time,” Hudson said.

Students below average are not considered for extracurricular activities such as sports, modeling troupes, dance troupes, Greek-letter organizations or student government. Active members are placed on suspension within their own organizations. All financial aid is suspended, including, but not limited to private loans for probationary students.

The university catalog states that the first time a student fails to meet the minimum standards of progress, they will be placed on academic probation for two consecutive semesters; however, if they cannot meet the goal, they will be placed on academic suspension.

A student will only be permitted to return to the university following their first two academic suspensions. The third academic suspension is a permanent dismissal.

A student who has been academically dismissed is encouraged to attend a community college for an associate’s degree and may reapply after two semesters with no application fee. A letter of petition for readmission from the student is required, as well as three letters of recommendation and the student’s academic record.

President James Ammons and Provost Cynthia Hughes-Harris have made retention progression and graduation a part of the university’s strategic plan for the next decade.

They are evaluating what is already in place and making recommendations to improve each area.

They are analyzing tools used by other institutions similar to FAMU for ideas for improvement, as well as surveying students and faculty in all departments for their opinions and suggestions.

Scott is currently working on improving his grades as he intends to change his major to music production.

“Music was always my first love and now that the new curriculum has been implemented, I am excited to jump on board,” Scott said.