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Florida students prevent FAMU-FSU College of Engineering split

By staff |
April 30, 2014
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Tallahassee, FL - Students prevented the proposed split of the Florida A&M University-Florida State University (FAMU-FSU) College of Engineering this 2014 legislative session. Student activists organized and protested at the Florida legislature to force Republican politicians to back off. FAMU is an historically Black university and African-American students view the proposed split as a racist attempt to create separate and unequal colleges.

The bad legislation went away when Florida Speaker of the House Will Weatherford introduced a compromise. It calls for funding a study into the viability of the joint engineering college. This then passes the buck to the Florida Board of Governors in March 2015. They have final decision on the future of the joint and historical partnership.

Florida State Senator John Thrasher, the campaign co-chair for Governor Rick Scott’s re-election campaign, originally proposed splitting the engineering college. Thrasher attempted to cover his tracks by claiming the discussion would not have taken place if he had not proposed a budget amendment to fund the split.

“Thrasher is a notorious anti-worker and anti-higher education bully, who this session, due to the FAMU and FSU students working together, didn’t get what he wanted,” said Michael Sampson, organizer with the Dream Defenders. “He can try and sum this up any way he wants but he lost this go around and those who wanted to prevent the FAMU-FSU School of Engineering from being split this year were successful.”

Thrasher is rumored to be a finalist for the FSU presidential search. Many view his proposal to split the FAMU-FSU School of Engineering as a power grab by elite FSU interests at the expense of FAMU. This is currently one of the few partnerships between a mostly white university and a historically Black university. Neither FAMU nor FSU administrative leadership were even notified of the possibility of a split of its engineering program before it happened. New FAMU President, Elmira Mangum, said that FAMU by itself didn’t have the means to sustain its own engineering program at current rates of funding from the state legislature.

Florida State University is a predominantly white education institution that continues to grow, often at the expense of the neighboring African-American communities. This move by Thrasher to split away from a joint venture with the Florida A&M University was a move that angered many of Tallahassee’s African americans. Engineering students from the National Society of Black Engineers spoke out with Dream Defenders against the attempted injustice.

“I think that it was a great step,” said FSU Engineering student and former vice-president of the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) Samuel Ichite. “It’s great to know that the logical step was taken as a result of different people stepping up and standing for what was right. It should never be left up to politicians to determine the fate of our education.”

Tallahassee Dream Defenders, working with organizations like NSBE and the FAMU Student Government Association and other FAMU student leaders, organized to prevent Thrasher’s power play from being successful. However, student activists know they have a long way to go to make sure the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering is protected in the future.

“This is a short-term win but we need to keep organizing over the summer and throughout next year to prevent them from attempting to split it again,” said Melanie Andrade, president of the FAMU chapter of Dream Defenders. “We need to make sure we are researching whatever they are proposing and targeting whoever needs to be targeted in order to make sure the FAMU-FSU School of Engineering stays the way it is.”

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