Criser to Recommend Keeping Joint Engineering College

Florida State University System Chancellor Marshal Criser III ( Left), FAMU President Elmira Mangum ( Center) and  FSU President John Thrasher ( Right)

Florida State University System Chancellor Marshal Criser III ( Left), FAMU President Elmira Mangum                ( Center) and FSU President John Thrasher ( Right)


By Angeline J. Taylor and Keytron Hill

Today, the Chancellor of Florida’s State University System will end months of speculation regarding the joint engineering college shared by Florida A&M and Florida State universities in Tallahassee.

Chancellor Marshall Criser III is expected to recommend to the Board of Governors (BOG) that the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering continue to stay a joint program operating between the two universities, said Brittany Davis, communications director of the state university system.

Criser’s recommendation comes after several months of discussion between FAMU President Elmira Mangum, FSU President John Thrasher, their respective staffs and Criser. It was Thrasher who originally led the charge to separate the joint college.

As a former state senator, Thrasher recommended the joint program be divided among the two institutions during last year’s legislative session when he led a budget amendment to get the joint school divided – a move that brought dissension among the universities as FSU was looking for a new president and FAMU’s 11th president, Elmira Mangum, was in the first week of her tenure. Recently, it’s been reported that Thrasher has had a change of heart. While that has not been confirmed, Criser’s recommendation comes months after an independent firm in California completed a 91-page report on the college of engineering, which said it would cost at least $1 billion to separate the joint program. After reviewing the report’s findings, Criser will offer his recommendation, which is spelled out in the Thursday meeting’s agenda item.

The agenda item says, “The FAMU-FSU College of Engineering should remain a joint college. Significant administrative and organizational changes will be implemented over the next year within a renewed Joint College of Engineering Governance Council.”

Davis says the final decision of what will occur to the joint program will be determined by the BOG’s vote.

During the months of talks regarding a potential split, both Criser and the FAMU engineering staffers have offered some potential solutions to fix the dominant problems ailing the joint engineering program.

Criser’s recommendations involve:

– The formation of a 12-member joint college governance council with members equally split between the universities.
-Creation of a new budget entity to be pursued during this year’s legislative session.
-A multi-year plan to address renovations that will be presented to the BOG.
-A plan to integrate academic and student affairs activities.
-By March 1, 2016, the joint college must submit a report to the BOG to document the completion of the aforementioned activities.

In addition to Criser and the state university system, FAMU’s engineering staffers also came up with some solutions. The Associate Dean of the College of Engineering (E-College) Reginald Perry announced those 10 recommendations at the February FAMU trustee board meeting. He said he and his fellow colleagues believe their recommendations will bring positive changes to the FAMU portion of the program.

“There were probably 16 of us that got together over the span of two months to discuss recommendations. It was pretty much a group effort in terms of what we felt was important items. There were probably more than 10 but we decided to just start with those 10 to get a first-go at this,” said Perry.

FAMU staffers’ recommendations involve everything from recruiting, a dedicated staffer responsible for the pre-engineering program and transportation to salaries and a review of the promotion and tenure policies. Perry said that these recommendations are “internal things” that would strengthen the presence of FAMU’s side of the joint college – an issue that has been a point of contention, according to the independent study.

According to the study, which was commissioned by the BOG, FAMU undergraduate students once had a strong presence in the E-College. Over the last 10 years, that presence has met a sharp decrease while FSU’s undergraduate engineering program has seen increases in student population.

Perry, who has worked at FAMU since 1989, said issues used to be resolved better.

“Little things (have) just happened gradually over time,” he said referring to some areas staff want fixed at the E-College.

FAMU staffers’ recommendations include:
-A college recruiter to be hired to increase the number of FAMU students and to assist in job and internship placements.
-A faculty member should be hired to coordinate with the university’s pre-engineering program. Perry said without that key area, faculty members find that “students are kind of spinning … taking classes but not progressing.”
-Reinstate a dedicated shuttle between FAMU’s main campus and the E-College site.
-The college should establish a single online Blackboard site accessible by students.
-Establish raises and bonuses for FAMU faculty and staff members to at least “be the same as FSU affiliated faculty and staff members.”
-More FAMU faculty need to be hired in the areas of chemical, mechanical and industrial engineering.
-Additional support requested to be increased in the areas of graduate admissions, human resources and financial aid to assist in the recruitment and retention of FAMU graduate students.
-Current and proposed promotion and tenure policies need to be reviewed and revised.
-A steering committee of the executive council should be established with equal representation of FAMU-FSU faculty and staff.
-And, changes should be made to the executive council demonstrating equal representation between each university.