Internal flame needs more fuel

Late Friday afternoon, three men stood around the eternal flame trying to figure out why the flame was not burning.

I had seen the flame out before and attributed it to strong winds, rain or maybe Dr. Ammons turned the switch off, but Friday was a beautiful fall day free of any form of precipitation.   

When I asked them what they were doing, they said, “Troubleshooting the flame.”

Troubleshooting, a term I’ve only seen when dealing with computers, is essentially identifying why a product or system failed and how to fix it.  If someone could actually fix the function of the actual eternal flame, a symbol that represents the spirit, undying love and dedication of FAMU to its constituents, is it possible that someone could fix the invisible flame that resides in us all? Can someone troubleshoot FAMU?   

Later that day, I visited a friend in McGuinn Hall. I can’t say I ever liked the place. It reeked of fuzzy growing bacteria and seemed to be where a lot of wild things lived. She complained of her sinuses bothering her all semester and that other residents were having some of the same issues.

“The bathrooms are an abomination,” she said.    

I reminded her that FAMU had a top-tier janitorial company, but I was led down the peeling painted walls to find mold growing in the showers, on the shower curtains and no toilet tissue.

I reminded her that she had a help desk she and her cohorts could utilize to fix the matter.

My suggestion was met with a smirk and rolling eyes. My perspective was rebooted. At around $1,900 per semester to live in these luxurious dormitories, some residents can barely breathe. At a university where “Excellence with Caring,” is the motto, how is this caring?

While the university’s aim is to increase enrollment to 15,000 students, which is an admirable goal, it is unrealistic to bring in more students when we are not “caring” for the students that are already here.  We need to troubleshoot.    

Troubleshooting FAMU will take more than hyped rhetoric or a magic wand.

Troubleshooting involves (gasp) critical thinking and understanding the idea of fault tolerant systems.  Fault tolerance in a system occurs when there is a built-in repetition of multiple failures. The only way to truly rectify fault tolerance is to replace failing components or make necessary adjustments.

FAMU has a fault tolerance system; we see the failing components and for hook-up or allegiance sake continue to let them fail or perform poorly. We allow administrative leaders to serve to the point where they are knowingly ineffective.

Funds are used to secure tour buses to recruit more students but not used to secure healthy and livable conditions in dormitories to retain students.

We give out bonuses at the top and cut jobs at the bottom. We see people getting away with these things and say nothing. We need to troubleshoot the internal flame, not the eternal flame.

Kianta Key is a first-year public health graduate student from Atlanta. She can be reached at or