Dr. Edward Holifield
In a Nov. 1 “My View,” Alan Levine of Florida’s Board of Governors stated the following about the selection of FAMU’s Board of Trustees: “No matter who is selected, the Board of Governors will still hold FAMU’s Board of Trustees and president accountable for the results we are seeking for the students. The president and the board must work together to recognize this, act on it, and perform. Or the Board of Governors may have to.”
This is false. The Board of Governors could care less about the students at FAMU. The Board of Governors has saddled FAMU with unrealistic performance measures that are impossible for FAMU to fulfill. Following the Jim Crow-motivated underfunding of FAMU for decades, there can be no doubt that the objective of Rick Scott, the Florida Legislature and the Board of Governors is to force FAMU to fail.
Meanwhile, there is the steep decline of Blacks at the so-called “preeminent” University of Florida and Florida State University. The only place where Blacks are wanted at these institutions is on the athletic fields, where they risk life and limbs to generate tens of millions of dollars for the benefit of administrators, faculty, graduate facilities, libraries, professional schools, coaches and students.
At FSU, Black freshman undergraduate enrollment plummeted from 12 percent to 7 percent between the years 1995 and 2011. This represents a 42 percent decrease, as reported in the New York Times.
Blacks are 16.8 percent of the population in Florida, yet they are only 3.9 percent of the FSU tenured faculty. Hispanics are 24.1 percent of the population in Florida, yet they are only 4 percent of the tenured faculty at FSU.
At the University of Florida, Black freshman undergraduate enrollment dropped from 14 percent, or 910 students, in 2007 to 6.2 percent, or 395 students, in 2013. This represents a decrease of 56 percent.
Black undergraduate enrollment at UF fell from 10.1 percent in 2009 to 7.4 percent in 2013. This represents a 27 percent decrease, as reported in the Gainesville Sun.
The precipitous fall in Black enrollment at FSU and UF can largely be attributed to former Gov. Jeb Bush, who in 2000 abolished affirmative action by executive order with a stroke of his pen. Black enrollment has never fully recovered.
Meanwhile, FSU maintains a Legacy Program, the objective of which is apparently to make an overwhelmingly white university even whiter. This program gives preferential treatment to applicants whose parents, or even grandparents, graduated from FSU.
Because Jim Crow kept Blacks out of FSU until 1962, Blacks are excluded from deriving equal benefit from the legacy admission program relative to whites. FSU even has a Legacy Scholarship Program, which only legacy admits are eligible to apply for.
“Bright Futures” scholarships based in part on SAT scores are often given to wealthy white students who don’t even need them.
Ironically, FAMU is being criticized by the Board of Governors for not having enough white students. Really?
In view of the decline in minority enrollment of Blacks at FSU and UF, the criticism of FAMU by the Board of Governors for lack of diversity is at best hypocritical and at worse dishonest.
Edward Holifield, M.D., is president and CEO of the Tallahassee Initiative for Social Justice. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.