FAMU doesn't want to lose its joint-run engineering school to FSU.
Published April 10, 2007|Updated April 13, 2007

Two weeks ago, in the wake of another unflattering audit for Florida A&M University, state lawmakers began moving on a plan to shift financial control of the joint FAMU-FSU engineering school to Florida State University.

On Monday, FAMU trustees quietly objected.

In an emergency meeting, they voted unanimously - and without much comment - to support efforts to nix the plan, which could be approved this week.

"Let's back up and return (the engineering school) to FAMU," trustee R.B. Holmes said after the meeting.

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 a Senate Education Committee, where members said they wanted to give FAMU breathing room to deal with more pressing problems.

Some FAMU supporters view the move as a slap in the face, given that the engineering school does not seem to be suffering from the oversight problems plaguing other parts of the university.

Others wonder if FAMU is on the verge of losing the engineering school in the same way it lost its law school decades ago.

State Sen. Al Lawson offered another theory. FSU, he said Monday, is working behind the scenes to separate the engineering school into FSU and FAMU components, and that FSU has already prepared paperwork to begin the transition.

"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."

Both FSU and FAMU officials said they were not familiar with any such proposal.

Ron Matus can be reached at (727) 893-8873 or