A call for change, or are FAMU’s students’ pleas for help going unheard?

Current J-School lot. Photos courtesy: Tatyanna McCray

College is a time of new journeys, and bountiful excitement as many students transition into a new era. The same could be said for students here on campus at FAMU; parties, classes, and socializing are a part of the expedition. However, despite all the good that comes with the illustrious university, there is also a plethora of jarring issues that seemingly nag away at students. The problems vary among the student body, but the usual responses students receive leave many wondering, “Do they really actually even care to make a change?”

RaDeja McNeil, a junior psychology major, says, “I think FAMU needs to address the lack of advisors for students; I shouldn’t have to be completing my own degree audit because I do not have an advisor that can. It makes me feel overwhelmed when I have to do my job as a student AND as an advisor.”

Issues with academic advising that caters to the needs of FAMU’s students have become an ongoing trend that not only frustrates students but also causes a rift in communication between students and staff, which is another pivotal issue. Due to the shortage of academic advisors, there are only a few select individuals in each of the different degree program departments that can assist students, which then, in turn, snowballs into another issue as far as student-to-staff ratio and access is concerned. Furthermore, as a result, emails and phone calls go unanswered, thus propelling students to go to those higher up on the chain of command to only be met with automatic responses, no response, or some form of help on a good day.

“I feel there’s not enough advocacy for transfer students, and there isn’t enough knowledgeable and available staff present to help transfer students. At times it seems no matter who you ask for help, no one has a clear answer,” says Sabrina McMillan, a senior sociology major.

Incoming and current transfer students have also had their share of tribulations since transferring to FAMU. Problems with obtaining housing, proper help, and organization seem to be some of the top issues transfer students deal with while juggling their crossover into rattler nation as their respective future alma mater. Much like any other student, communication is a major issue, and general guidance and direction are difficult to navigate and find, even more so when those who are here to help are set on making everyday reality harder than it needs to be instead of simply helping complete various tasks.

Khaliah Haynes, a freshman history major, says, “There needs to be better renovations and maintenance for student housing throughout the campus, it could be so much better.”

Within the last year, FAMU has witnessed a tremendous growth spurt of incoming students. Although this is a great issue, the downside is that many students are faced with the strife of barely receiving housing or no housing at all. There have been issues with pests, bugs, and unhygienic settings during the current semester. Unfortunately for the students, solutions were slim, and possible relocation is unattainable considering the cost of living and the lack of availability elsewhere. Students have also spoken up and complained about the level of safety and regard for themselves and their peers on and off campus.

“As students, we always get to see the donations coming in, but we never actually get a clear explanation of where or how the money is being distributed to help students. This creates further issues regarding where funding is needed, for more parking, housing, and other resources that students need.” says sophomore political science major Ashely Charles.

A tale as old as time is that of the issues HBCU students from any HBCU face with financial aid. It seems to be a rite of passage that students have bonded over for quite some time, seemingly decades, even when alums are brought into the equation. Students not only struggle with receiving financial aid, but processing is also an entire ordeal itself. Thus, making it tougher to register for classes or pay off debts in a timely manner if they are not employed or have little to no form of financial restitution to aid their educational expenses. Students sometimes struggle with simply purchasing books required for a class, pulling together enough funds for a meal plan, or buying groceries and everyday necessities. The list seems to continue to grow by the day.

Several suggestions could be of good use to the student body, for starters handling funds more efficiently, handling issues as soon as they arise, and much more. The university has a total of 8 on-campus residences and recently purchased a local apartment complex to house more students. FAMU also has a food pantry that provides the option of various food, including canned goods, if students cannot afford a meal plan or groceries. Financial aid also has a portal that opens at various times throughout the year, providing students with the opportunity to earn scholarships. Sometimes campus-wide emails are sent out to students as a form of reassurance for their troubles and issues, but students want and demand more!

Despite the many current issues, FAMU administrators have begun conducting plans and piecing together solutions to assist students. Still, one major issue remains communication and a sense of collective agreement. Although the solutions are underway for the current situation, it is perceived as the bare minimum; as one thing is fixed, another is ruined. The goal is to mold students into becoming their greatest selves while providing the best standard quality a college should offer so that we can one day give back to future generations. For this to happen, students’ voices cannot continue to be ignored.