Robinson takes charge of fixing FAMU housing flap
By St. Clair Murraine
Outlook staff writer
Just outside the room where FAMU’s interim president Larry Robinson was giving an update on an unexpected housing dilemma that left more than 100 freshmen displaced, work crews moved at warp speed Friday to get living spaces ready for the students.
The crew’s goal was to have living quarters renovated by this past Saturday to house the students who were expecting to be settled in four days earlier.
Robinson said he wasn’t informed of the situation until Tuesday evening and he obviously was left wondering how the inspection was handled.
“I can’t say (whether) it was checked or wasn’t checked,” Robinson said. “All I know is that there were still some issues here Tuesday. That’s what we’ve been working on the last couple days.
“It’s a process and I think the process needed a few more eyes on it; a few more hands, and a few more bodies working on it. That’s what we’ve done since this matter was brought to my attention on Tuesday.”
The flap comes at a time when the university’s Board of Trustees is making a move to make Robinson permanent as president. He was quick to inform the BOT members of the situation, Robinson said.
“They are about as much concerned as I am,” Robinson said. “They want to see the situation resolved.”
Most of the 200 students who were expected to be housed in Palmetto North, located off South Adams Street, were moved to hotels on Tuesday. Their on-campus check-in was delayed when mold was discovered in several of the units. Additionally, there were other problems such as no running water and no air conditioning in some buildings.
That set off a dust up from parents, who were left looking for answers before FAMU moved their children to hotels. Crews have been working non-stop since.
“It’s an all-hands-on-deck approach,” Robinson said, while some check-ins were underway.
Admittedly, Robinson said he wasn’t aware of the poor living conditions until he did a walk-through Tuesday evening.
Outside of the building where Robinson spoke to the media, crews were laying sod, cutting wood, painting and fixing plumbing.
Nicole Gibson, who days earlier was fuming over the situation that her daughter encountered, was glad to check her child in Friday. However, she lamented over having to miss days from her job in Miami.
“At the beginning, I was really disappointed but they have been really moving,” said Gibson, after walking through the unit where her daughter will live. “They have been doing all they needed to do with the repairs.”Gibson said apologies from housing director Jennifer Wilder and her staff helped to calm her anger somewhat.
“But it does get frustrating even if someone is saying they are sorry,” she said. “It gets frustrating when you have to stay here longer than you should have to.”
FAMU had to resort to refurbishing Palmetto North because of an influx of first-year students. About 1,200 freshmen were expected but that number swelled to 1,755, bringing the number of new students to 4,052 (including transfers).
FAMU then turned to Palmetto North to accommodate the students in a tract of brick units that were built between 1974 and ’75. The buildings have 124 beds.
FAMU was expecting about 200 first-year students to occupy the buildings, but Robinson said accommodations will be ready for 122-130 of them. The others will get priority in cancelled housing elsewhere on campus or will be placed in off-campus housing, Robinson said.
“This is a major priority for us,” he said. “We are working double time to ensure that we get these facilities ready to accommodate our students. Our first priority is their wellbeing and safety; being in a place on campus where all of the data shows it’s most amenable to their success.”
Lencie Sejour was one of the fortunate ones who was able to check in Friday. She admitted being surprised by the condition of her unit at first, but she was seemingly glad to have a room.
“I’m so excited to be here,” she said. “I was disappointed, but they accommodated us by giving us the hotel rooms.
“This is my dream school. The band is awesome (and) it’s just perfect for me.”