Against the Grain II
Florida has moved FAMU from its founding mission
Florida A&M University was founded on Oct.3, 1887 as the State Normal College for Colored Students. During this segregated era, Blacks were not allowed to attend general population schools. The very basis of the school and its mission was to educate those that would not otherwise have the opportunity to be educated.
FAMU took those that were labeled as lesser, not teachable or not up to testing standards and made them into college graduates and at the time a big emphasis was placed on being good and productive citizens.
During wartime, FAMU students proudly served and died for this country. They were subjected to taxes just as other Americans were, but not privileged to receive the same benefits as their White counterparts.
The pride in FAMU from its graduates came from the fact that they knew without the nurturing and guidance of the teachers and administrators an education just might not have been possible. This bonding to the school resulted in an alumni base that has supported the school financially, morally and emotionally. Many of them will be the first to tell you that without FAMU they would not be in the position to support themselves and their families.
Beginning with the oversight of the state universities by the board of regents and continuing with the board of governors, FAMU — with its unique mission — has been gradually lumped into the grouping of major state universities. This occurred while FAMU was still being funded basically as a specialty institution, with its mission to educate Blacks. Gradually the metrics of FAMU’s success became morphed into a rubric of performance funding measured against programs with exponential funding by the state.
In 2019, the average GPA of freshmen entering FAMU exceeded 3.6 on a 4.0 scale. In essence, these students can virtually get into any college in the country. The standardized test scores on the ACT and SAT parallel those of students at major institutions.
The mission of FAMU has always been to develop those that others would not admit. At this point, the admission standards of the university are so high that the enrollees can get into virtually any college in the country, thus eliminating the uniqueness of the school.
These high standards were derived out of necessity. The state’s emphasis on four-year graduation rates has forced the hand of the university to accept only students with extremely high prerequisites.
In the states of Alabama and Maryland, major lawsuits against this exact treatment of HBCUs have resulted in huge settlements in favor of the schools. The state of Maryland had to award over $500 million to HBCUs to right the wrong of doing nearly the exact same thing to its state schools for decades. The unique bipartisan collaboration for the settlement in Maryland came not in the courts, but in the legislature. The landmark awarding of funds to the schools in Maryland includes Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference schools Morgan State, Coppin State and Maryland Eastern Shore.
Maybe it’s time for the Florida Black Caucus, which is filled with FAMU graduates, to consider taking up this type of legislation in the state of Florida.