General studies cut may hurt more than help


The decision to shut down the general studies program will produce more problems for FAMU, the faculty, its reputation and most importantly, the students.

June 2011 will mark the end of the 26 years of the general studies program, and Provost Cynthia Hughes-Harris is charged with this decision in order to meet the demands of budget cuts. According to Hughes-Harris, one deciding factor for phasing out the program was its inability to generate credits.

The university has also been scrutinized for its slack admission requirements.

Last month, Frank Brogan, chancellor of the Florida state university system encouraged FAMU to find its niche among the state’s 11 public universities.

He went on to say that even though this is the highest number of enrolled students in FAMU‘s history, the majority of the new students are “alternative admits,” meaning they would not normally be accepted into any other  state university.

FAMU is known for taking non-traditional students, refining and then graduating them with baccalaureate degrees. However, the elimination of the general studies program will ensure this institutional custom ends in June 2011 as well.

General Studies is the one program where “alternative admits” are given the tools for success as well as exposure to a number of possible career paths. But with the dissolution of this department, how will these students be expected to matriculate through the university?

This is like giving a homeless man keys to a house but not helping him acquire a job to afford the monthly bills. Of course he is going to accept the offer; he is homeless and does not have any better options. But without a job he definitely cannot keep up with the responsibilities of homeownership.

The same is true for non-traditional students. If you extend the offer of college and an opportunity for a better life, they will accept. But if they are enrolled without a support system, then don’t expect them to make the Dean’s list. This is a recipe for disaster,one the university is running toward. 

The impact of this closure will be felt throughout campus, as the individual colleges and schools will admit these students into upper-level programs. When this happens, the reputations of our most well-regarded programs will be at risk.

Another issue associated with this closure is the increasing workload on faculty. Our faculty is responsible for molding the minds of future leaders, but how can they do this if they are not able to teach at the collegiate level?

Professors can only teach what their student can comprehend. If students do not have the basic necessities for learning, how can faculty teach them the coursework they will need as members of the work force? If this becomes commonplace, some faculty may leave and return to their lucrative careers.

Lastly, if the university is serious about staving off economic hardships, why not try to align the university’s goals with the Florida Board of Governors?

According to the BOG website, it will be awarding 11 universities with funding for programs in science, technology, engineering and math or STEM projects. FAMU is one of the chosen universities but was only awarded money from two out of 45 monetary awards.

If we are to become an academic powerhouse for research, development and education it is imperative that our leadership make decisions that are in the best interest of the students first. They should raise the admission requirements first and then get rid of the general studies program. To eradicate the program first, while still enrolling alternative admits, is irresponsible.

As the financial stakeholders, students need to take control of the direction our university is headed. I encourage everyone to go find out what goes on at student government association meetings.

Students should also seriously consider attending Board of Trustee meetings and voice their opinions on decisions that are being made for us because we are the ones who are affected by the decisions from this institution’s administration. Ultimately, the fate of the university lies in the hands of the student body.