Saturday, May 28, 2022

Rattlers to open football season with two nationally televised games

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FAMU will kick off its 2022 football season with back-to-back nationally televised games.  The Rattlers first game of the season on Saturday, August 27, against the University of North Carolina Tar Heels will be televised to a nationwide audience at 8 p.m. on the ACC Network.
One week later, the Rattlers game against Jackson State in the Orange Blossom Classic in Miami Gardens, FL, on Sunday, September 4 will be televised nationally at 3 p.m. on ESPN2.

Friday, May 27, 2022

College enrollment continues to decline even as the pandemic’s effects ebb

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New data 
from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center provide a final tally on enrollment for the spring of 2022 — and reveal a persistent trend: College attendance continues to decline.

Undergraduate enrollment fell 4.7 percent from a year earlier, a shortfall of more than 662,000 students. Since the pandemic began, the undergraduate student body has dropped by almost 1.4 million students.

The worsening enrollment picture was unexpected, said Doug Shapiro, executive director of the research center, said during a conference call to the media. “I thought we would start to see some of these declines begin to shrink a little bit this term,” he said, “particularly because I think there’s a general sense that we should be coming out of the effects of the pandemic at this point.”

But also in play, he said, are students who increasingly question the value of college, are wary about taking out student loans to pay for it, and who have options to join the labor market instead.

Graduate and professional students — who had been a bright spot in enrollments throughout the first year of the pandemic— also saw a 1 percent decline in enrollment in the spring of 2022, from a year earlier.

Shapiro, noted small gains in first-year, first-time students.  

Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president of the American Council on Education, urged caution in interpreting the data.

“The numbers are disappointing and troubling, but I am reluctant to read any major implications into enrollment changes in one spring semester during a pandemic,” Hartle said. 

“One of the things we are clearly seeing is that well-known institutions, flagship public colleges, have more applicants than they’ve ever had before at the same time that regional state colleges are often struggling,” Hartle said.

Overall Black freshman enrollment declined by 6.5 percent, nationally,  or 2,600 students. In total, there were 8,400 fewer Black freshmen than in 2020.

Shapiro said the numbers were discouraging, steeper than what the organization reported for the fall term.

“I thought we would start to see some of the declines begin to shrink a bit this term,” he said. “I am surprised that it seems to be getting worse.”

Specific spring enrollment numbers for FAMU were not available as the Office of Institutional Research has not updated its website to show the enrollment figures beyond Fall 2021.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Rattlers advance in SWAC baseball tournament

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The FAMU baseball team defeated Prairie View A&M Panthers  5-4 in a thrilling ten inning contest in the 2022 SWAC Baseball Tournament in Birmingham, AL.
Ty Hanchey, a junior left fielder, scored the game winner for the Rattlers on a clutch RBI single through the right side of the field by Robert Robinson.
Hanchey finished the game with four hits, two runs and two RBI.
“That was a heck of a ballgame,” said FAMU head coach Jamey Shouppe. “We’re just happy to get the win. Anything can happen in tournament play. A little momentum will most certainly help. I’m happy to get that [momentum] and hopefully we can roll with it.”


The Rattlers will face the winner of the Southern vs Jackson State baseball later today, weather permitting.

Wednesday, May 25, 2022

Florida's shady history with its only publicly funded HBCU

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When it was built in the 1920’s, FAMU’s hospital was the only one that treated African Americans in North Florida. It maintained that distinction through the 1950’s. For the city’s black population, the FAMU hospital was more than just a healthcare provider - it was the center of a community.

Nashid Madyun, former Director of the Meek-Eaton Black Archives who currently serves as the Executive Director of the Florida Humanities Council, says the roots of this social center go back to the end of the Civil War when schools like FAMU were established to educate a newly emergent free black population.

FAMU’s hospital began in 1911 as a center for tuberculosis patients. It came as African Americans were trying to figure out a path forward, and that debate was highlighted through the clashes of two titans of black history: W.E.B DuBois and Booker T. Washington.
“The arguments…[were] about what takes your path to independence,” Madyun says. “Is it higher education or vocational skills?” The hospital was the physical embodiment of the intersection of the debate, combining the vocation of nursing with higher education. 

A foundation for health care
FAMU became the first school—black or white—to offer an accredited undergraduate nursing program in the state.  These nurses - as well as the school’s teachers, lawyers, and other graduates - would go on to form the foundation of the city’s black middle class.

“The primary physicians were all black physicians, and there were just a few of us. The subspecialists were the white physicians who were on-call from us,” recalls Dr. A.D. Brickler, a retired obstetrician. He practiced for more than 60 years in Tallahassee. Today, his name graces the maternity wing of Tallahassee Memorial Hospital. One of Brickler’s first jobs in medicine was at the FAMU hospital.

Dr. A.D. Brickler worked at FAMU Hospital early in his career.

He recalls working in rural areas of the region and attending an emergency birth in Gadsden County where a woman eventually gave birth to a stillborn baby. It nearly killed her. Hospital physicians, Brickler says, treated “anything that walked in the door. Gunshot wounds, car, automobile accidents, pregnancies….”

A Role Model For Excellence
“I thought surely I’d be a nurse,” Rhonda Ransom, a longtime Tallasseean. “There was no way I wouldn’t be a nurse because they was just simply beautiful to me, in the white uniforms, and stockings and caps. And I thought they were just gorgeous.”  

“The (FAMU) nurses I remember as a child were so pleasant to us and so kind to us. This hospital for us, particularly the ones that lived in this neighborhood, was a social center,” she says.

Madyun agrees.  “You have a 5-year-old and 6-year-old boy and little girl that wake up in the 1880s and 1890s and didn’t see a positive identifiable character to model after. But in the 1950s and 60s, you start to see more of that. In 1970, you certainly saw…someone you can identify, whether it’s in your household or in your neighborhood.”  

White southerners used Civil Rights Act to oppress Black instutions
Historically Black Colleges like FAMU were instrumental in the Civil Rights movement. In Tallahassee, FAMU students led the Tallahassee Bus Boycott of 1956 and the Woolworths sit-ins. Their actions had an impact, and things began to change in 1964 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. It paved the way for widespread integration.

“The Civil Rights Act was supposed to…uplift and provide more strength and balance equilibrium to African Americans - opportunity,” says Madyun. But there was an unforeseen cost, and it was paid by black institutions.

“Here’s the Civil Rights Act that says ‘separate but equal’ makes no sense,” Madyun says. “If I’m a legislator that believe[s] in oppressing African Americans, we have an opportunity here to use the Civil Rights Act….to take away funding. If you’re not serving a white population…we want to take away funding.”

Programs taken from FAMU and given to FSU
Madyun says FAMU programs came under threat as more people began to question the need for two state universities in one city. Florida State University was just across the railroad tracks.

“There’s a law school at FAMU. You have a hospital, a flagship nursing program, researchers,” Madyun says. “At FSU, you have none of those things.”

"Evil and vindictive" 
The first FAMU institution to close was its law school.  The state defunded it in 1965, and it closed in 1968.  Its assets went to Florida State University—a predominantly white school which had no professional programs.

Today, Florida State University is a much different place reshaped in as a major researcher university with a plethora of professional programs, some taken away from FAMU, and others which came at the expense of FAMU.

Three years later, the FAMU hospital began to face threats of closure.  It lost its federal healthcare funding to Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, which was now integrated. Facing financial hardship that it couldn’t overcome, the university hospital officially shuttered in 1971.
 “The hospital was taking care of all the black indigent patients and subsequently more of the white indigent patients in the community before it closed,” Brickler says. “If you take care of a lot of sick people who don’t have any money, you’re going to run out of funds. And that’s exactly what happened to A&M Hospital.”   

“How evil and vindictive,” Ed Holifield, MD, says, referencing the hospital’s official closure date of December 24, 1971 - Christmas Eve. TMH officials chose that date as it landed during Christmas break, and according to news reports at the time, they knew FAMU students wouldn’t be around to protest.

That was the beginning of what would become a five-decade fight for survival for Florida A&M. In the years and decades since, different programs have been targeted for removal: nursing, home economics (including clothing and retail) programs which went to Florida State University, agricultural sciences, even football. Later, the fight would become whether to merge FAMU and FSU together or into other universities.

“We can close the hospital, take their programs, take their leading faculty, integrate some of their students who are strong academically,” Madyun says of the legislative sentiment at times.
He adds a merger made sense to some people, and there were “African Americans on both sides of the equation, especially the rising middle class.”

The reasons proposed for closing or merging have been consistent over the years. Advocates have pointed to low test scores, periods of decreased enrollment and have also questioned whether HBCU’s are still needed. 

State underfunds FAMU law and health profession programs
We see that same theme continue to play as State of Florida has for decades financially starved FAMU’s programs in Nursing capping its enrollment at 50 students per semester, underfunding its faculty, and limiting its facilities.  The school which was a proud beacon in Florida is now on probation.

FAMU’s Doctor of Physical Therapy and Doctor of Pharmacy have fared slightly better in recent years they remain a concern for the university.  Both programs are historically underfunded by the state. 

Florida’s insidious underfunding of FAMU comes at a time when Florida, and the nation, needs more health care professionals, and Black Americans continue to have worse healthcare outcomes, shorter lifespans and higher death rates than the general population.

FAMU has heard it all before.

Conflict erupts over the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering
In 2014, the reminders of loss and racial resentment embodied in the closures of the FAMU hospital and law school rose again when an effort to split the joint FAMU-FSU College of Engineering was unveiled in the legislature. Supporters argued a split was needed in order for Florida State University to rise in national rankings. Bottom line: FAMU was hindering FSU’s ascension.  

While, the FAMU-FSU Engineering partnership has survived it remains unequal in terms of faculty and student support.  FSU conveniently trumpets its relationship with FAMU, the HBCU, to go after federal research dollars designated for HBCUs.  

Former state Senator Arthenia Joyner was among the last class of students to graduate from the law school before it closed.

“This is different for me because it takes me back to a time when, I sat in study... and the books were removed and taken to Florida State. I sat there when the lights were dimmed and the door closed, because someone envisioned it would be best at Florida State,” Joyner told the Senate during a debate on the chamber floor. 
In that same debate, former state Senator Dwight Bullard noted FAMU’s racial history is etched in stone: a reminder of decades of losses and struggles.

“As a student at FAMU, you don’t know how bitter it feels for a student to pass by their library door, turn the corner, and see carved into the marble ‘College of Law’ and know that building doesn’t exist,” Bullard said. “You don’t know how disheartening it is to go to the law library at FSU to study statute and see Florida A & M University stamped into the books.”

Could history repeat itself?
In recent months, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) and the Republican-controlled Florida legislature eliminated two heavily Black congressional districts. The a voting map drawn by DeSantis that eliminates an Orlando based district now represented by Rep. Val Demings and a North Florida based district represented by Al Lawson, a FAMU grad, both Black Democrats.

DeSantis argued that he was against two race-based districts.  If that's his political thinking, how does this bode for Florida's only publicly funded HBCU?  

Could DeSantis simply provide more money to Florida's private HBCU's as it did in 2020, while  decreasing funding for FAMU? In 2020, the Florida Legislature provided B-CU, Edward Waters College and Florida Memorial University an injection of  $33 million injection annually in recurring funding.  While denying FAMU similar funding for improvement, despite the fact that FAMU graduates more students annually than all of them combined.

In today's environment, FAMU would be hard pressed to rely on Federal officials to come to its aid as in did in 1973, when the feds warned the state that if it didn’t begin complying in honesty with Congressional laws that mandated the desegregation of higher education, then Florida would risk losing  millions in federal money. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2022

FAMU-FSU taps Rensselaer Polytechnic Inst. scholar to lead Engineering College

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Suvranu De, Ph.D., has been named the next dean of the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering. His first day is July 15.

De currently serves as the J. Erik Jonsson ’22 Distinguished Professor of Engineering at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he serves as head of the Department of Mechanical, Aerospace and Nuclear Engineering and director of the Center for Modeling, Simulation, and Imaging in Medicine.

“We welcome Suvranu De to the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, a unique partnership that is breaking new ground in scholarship, research, and technology innovation while successfully recruiting and educating engineers from underrepresented groups,” said FAMU President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “Dean De’s impressive background makes him well suited to lead the way forward as we enter a new era of success at the college.”

De was one of three finalists chosen by a 14-member committee following a nationwide search. The presidents and provosts of both institutions jointly made the final selection of De.

As dean, De will serve as the joint college’s chief academic and administrative officer, overseeing academic affairs and research, including all centers, institutes, and academic services. In this role, he will work with both universities’ deans, faculty, and administrators to advance the college’s mission and strengthen the institution’s state, national and international reputation.

De succeeds Murray Gibson, who has joined the faculty after five years as dean. Farrukh Alvi has served as interim dean since November 2021.

The dean is employed by FAMU but reports to the provosts of both institutions.

At FAMU De will lead a faculty and staff of over 300, and a student body of 2,800 graduate and undergraduate students. Over the past several years Engineering College has enjoyed a dramatic rise in rankings, record-breaking research expenditures and notable achievements in academic and research success. More than half of the patents (combined) at FAMU and FSU came out of the joint college. Master’s and doctoral engineering degrees accounted for half of the total advanced degrees produced at FAMU in the 2021-2022 academic year. The 11 doctoral degrees awarded to Black engineers is a record for the top ranked HBCU.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Public health professor named 2022-23 Fulbright Scholar

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Carlos A. Reyes Ortiz
, M.D., Ph.D., an associate public health professor in the FAMU College of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, Institute of Public Health (CoPPs, IPH), was recently named a U.S. Fulbright Scholar for the second time.

Dr. Reyes Ortiz plans to use his funding to assess frailty, functional and mental status among institutionalized older adults as a result of COVID-19 at the 260-bed Geriatric Hospital and Nursing Home San Miguel (GHNH-SM) in Cali, Columbia. 
“Knowing the long-term effects of COVID-19 on older persons is essential to understand the trajectory of an institutionalized older person in critical geriatric parameters – getting frail, functional, or mental decline – that could be prevented with early interventions such as rehabilitation, and which are also essential parameters for survival and quality of life,” said Reyes Ortiz

“Our research results will have potential application in other nursing homes or similar institutions – skilled nursing facilities – not only at the local level but also at the international level since other countries with limited resources in Latin America may use our findings to support institutional policies related to the care of the institutionalized older adults,” he added. 

Reyes Ortiz has conducted several studies on geriatric syndromes and cancer health disparities among older Hispanic populations in the United States, Latin America and Caribbean countries. He was previously named a Fulbright scholar while serving at McGovern Medical School in Houston. He is one of three Fulbright scholars on the CoPPS, IPH faculty, along with Mandip Sachdeva, Ph.D., and Seth Ablordeppey, Ph.D., said CoPPS, IPH Dean Johnnie Early, Ph.D.

Reyes Ortiz maintains that “Colombia is a multicultural country with many underserved populations very similarly to the population of Florida– as well many states in the U.S. – include underserved and multicultural populations.” And, that his research could be have implications in here and abroad. 

Sunday, May 22, 2022

Rattlers defeat Bethune 6-1

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The FAMU baseball team (26-28, 19-11 SWAC) got back on track yesterday and defeated Bethune-Cookman (24-28, 19-11 SWAC) 6-1 to close out the regular season. The victory halted the Rattlers five game losing streak and help them regain the second place spot in the SWAC East. 

The Rattlers struck first scoring one run in the bottom of the second on an RBI single by Adam Haidermota to take a 1-0 lead.  The Rattlers used the third ending to add to their lead by scoring three runs to take a 4-0 lead.

The Rattlers scored again in the seventh and eight innings to put the game away.
Up Next: 
The Rattlers will head to Birmingham, Alabama next week for the SWAC tournament beginning Wednesday, May 25. The Rattlers will be the #2 seed and will face Texas Southern/Prairie View at 9 a.m. CT.