FAMU Restructuring Plan Would Shut Down Numerous Programs

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by Pearl Stewart

Faced with mounting financial challenges, Florida A&M University President James Ammons announced a major overhaul Monday, proposing to close or merge about two dozen programs, including a large contingent in the College of Education.

Ammons said in a statement on the school’s website that FAMU already has cut more than $30 million since 2007, the year he arrived. The university is facing an additional $13.3 million in projected cuts for the coming fiscal year and the loss of more than $7 million in federal stimulus funds.

Stating that the restructuring plan “is being prompted by anticipated budget cuts,” Ammons said it is also an opportunity for the entire university community to take part in making improvements for the future.

“We will have to make a paradigm shift as we face the fact that some things are more important to us in achieving our goals than others,” Ammons said. “We want to establish a College of Dental Medicine, distance-learning initiatives, and create a new environment for teaching and learning. Since 80 percent of our budget is in personnel, we are going to have to look at every part of the university to determine its relevancy to meeting our future needs.”

Most prominent on Ammons’ seven-page list of program changes were nine proposed program closures in the College of Education at both the bachelor and master’s levels. Among them, the M.S. programs in Adult Education, Secondary Education, English Education, Mathematics Education, Science Education and Social Sciences Education, along with B.S. and M.S. degree programs in Business Education.

Also hard-hit is the College of Arts and Sciences, where bachelor’s programs in Spanish and French would be closed along with the master’s program in school psychology. Music performance and jazz studies would become part of a new B.A. in music program.

Other program terminations are being recommended in the College of Engineering Sciences, Technology and Agriculture (CESTA), the School of Journalism and Graphic Communication—in which the B.S. program in graphic communication would be eliminated—and the M.S. in journalism also would be closed.

Dr. Valerie White, director of the graduate journalism program, said she would appeal to keep the program. “In August I was charged with revamping the master’s degree program in journalism. Now I see that it’s on the list for termination.” She also noted, “In Florida, with the elimination of the master’s degree in journalism, students will not be able to receive an advanced degree in journalism from an HBCU.”

Many of the programs cited for closure were identified by the state Board of Governors as not meeting the threshold for the degrees produced. Others were described as having low enrollment or being “dormant,” and some appeared to overlap or compete with similar programs.

Adult education, for example, “has been dormant for years and there are no students and no faculty members in this program.” Graphic Communication is in the same division as graphic design, which has greater demand, the report stated. “Terminating the B.S. in Graphic Communication would … permit resources to be invested in remaining programs.”

Ammons said the university’s strategic plan calls for it to become a “21st Century Living and Learning Center” and “we have to determine how we will become [that] while having less state dollars in our budget. “

He said the streamlining and reductions would help to accomplish that goal by maximizing the institution’s available resources.

The restructuring proposals resulted from surveys of stakeholders and a series of focus groups held throughout 2010. In addition, a “reorganizational task group,” under the direction of the provost, Dr. Cynthia Hughes Harris, was charged with reviewing the effectiveness of the current academic organization and offering recommendations for improvement.

The proposals will be presented to the FAMU Board of Trustees at the next meeting on April 6-7.

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