A year ago, Florida A&M University’s “Day at the Capitol” activities were drastically curtailed due to forecasts of inclement weather. While the devastating weather never materialized, in retrospect, those warnings may have been an omen for what followed.
FAMU has been forced to weather the circumstances caused by the pandemic. Like educational institutions across the nation, FAMU underwent an amazing transformation from a once predominant mode of in-person education, to primarily remote operation in less than two weeks during the spring 2020 semester.
For Floridians, the human toll of the pandemic has been unfathomable. Over 2 million have tested positive, 84,000 hospitalized and over 33,000 family members, friends and neighbors have died. The events of the past year have caused major disruptions and economic challenges for our families and communities. Many students have been forced to either abandon or postpone their educational plans. Some chose to continue their pursuits at the university while facing the challenges of having fewer resources to do so.
The pandemic has been an obstacle for FAMU and has forced us to be resilient and purposeful in meeting the needs of our students in this changing academic landscape. It has accelerated our movement toward a future involving more technology in higher education and has clarified the need to have a society in which those inequities and disparities that have long existed in terms of health care, education, employment and access to technology are eliminated.
We have stepped up efforts to increase and improve our corporate and philanthropic partnerships to benefit our students, faculty and staff. In support of our community, we have hosted a community-based COVID-19 testing site since April 2020 and a vaccination site since February 2021. We are firmly committed to our motto of “Excellence with Caring.”
As we head into the final weeks of the 2021 legislative session, we realize the budgetary constraints facing Florida. At the same time, the continued support of the State University System of Florida is vital to the sustainability of our great state. Our contributions have been remarkable, especially when considering that FAMU has been under-resourced for many years. Thus, any decrease in funding for FAMU will likely have exponential impacts at a time when diversity, equity and inclusion are critical to Florida’s long-term viability. Our U.S. News and World Report ranking as 20th in the nation for social mobility attests to our success in changing the economic trajectory of our students.
With the potential shift in revenue projections expected due to the recent enactment of the American Relief Fund Act, we are advocating for support of academic enhancements, the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, the Brooksville Agricultural and Environmental Research Station, as well as maintaining resources for the College of Pharmacy Peaden Education Center in Crestview and restoration of support for the Black Male College Explorers Program.
This is a seminal moment in the history of Florida A&M University. Progress requires commitment. The Legislature’s fiscal commitment to FAMU is a laudable and necessary investment in Florida’s future, and we would be grateful for sustained legislative support.
Larry Robinson is the 12th president of Florida A&M University.