Don't do that, please
Two weeks ago, in the wake of yet another unflattering audit for Florida A&M University, state lawmakers proposed shifting financial control of the school’s engineering college to Florida State University. On Monday, FAMU trustees politely told the Legislature: Back off.
In an emergency meeting by telephone, trustees voted unanimously to support efforts to un-do the proposal, which lawmakers could decide on this week. "Let's back up and return (the engineering school) to FAMU," said trustee R.B. Holmes. Florida's only historically black public university jointly runs the engineering school with majority white FSU, but for 20 years FAMU has paid the bills and signed the paychecks. The plan to change that surfaced in the senate’s higher education appropriations committee, where members said they wanted to give FAMU some breathing room while it dealt with more pressing problems.
FAMU supporters, though, didn't see a benevolent act. Some viewed the move as a slap in the face, given that the engineering school does not seem to be suffering from the oversight or accounting problems plaguing other parts of the university. Others wondered if FAMU is primed to lose the engineering school in the same way it lost its law school decades ago.
State Sen. Al Lawson offered another theory Monday. FSU, he said, is moving behind the scenes to separate the engineering school into FSU and FAMU components - and has prepared a written proposal to begin the process. "This issue is a lot larger than fiscal responsibility," said Lawson, D-Tallahassee, who'll be leading efforts to get the Senate to reverse course. "You have to let people know there’s a bigger picture."
FSU and FAMU officials said Monday evening they don't know about any such proposal.
- Ron Matus, state education reporter