What can happen to HBCUs when COVID-19 hits

By Bobby R. Henry, Sr.

      Florida Memorial University founded in 1879 as Florida Baptist Institute in Live Oak by members of Bethlehem Baptist Association to educate ministers and children. Then in 1942 The Baptist General State Convention voted to merge its two schools. The Florida Institute at Live Oak was closed and combined with Florida Baptist Academy to form what became Florida Normal Industrial and Memorial College in St. Augustine. In 1968 on November 11, the new campus opened as Florida Memorial College. Another change occurred in 2004 in December- the institution’s charter was amended and the name Florida Memorial University adopted.

Could this Historic Black College and University (HBCU) become a victim of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Several phones calls to the office of the Westside Gazette says that there is a concern of a COVID-19 epidemic at Florida Memorial University, and that several of the infected are student-athletes.

The Saturday, Oct. 10 football matchup between Florida Memorial University and St. for Nov. 21 due to COVID-19 related concerns, both institutions announced on Tuesday.

“These are challenging times and we have to remain flexible in our scheduling,” Florida Memorial University Director of Athletics Ernest T. Jones said. “I am disappointed to lose our homecoming game against our Miami Gardens rival.”

One student-athletic who said that she and other teammates attended a party and they did not used proper judgement and she became infected. She is openly admits that it was their own fault.

A coach and at least one player tested positive for COVID-19 after playing a volleyball game in the gym. Some of the same players that attended the party was at the same game. They also claim information about the number of COVID positive results is not being made available to them.

Students and staff who tested positive want to remained nameless for fear of losing their scholarships and employment if they spoke out against the university for not being completely truthful concerning the outbreak.

“We feel that this school is not taking the right precautions and following protocol in order to help us contain the situation,” the source said.

The current player said that the volleyball team expressed their displeasure with returning to the court as early as this summer. The student-athlete says that Ernest Jones, the school’s Director of Athletics, threatened to take their scholarships if they didn’t compete.

“We feel we had to play because our scholarships were at risk. Without the scholarship we cannot study, we cannot play. The whole team is international, basically, just one player is from here. So we really need the scholarships.”

The employee had similar things to say.

“We kind of figured already that the situation was going to get worse,” the employee said. “What we didn’t want was for halfway through the season it to get worse and that be it for the girls.”

According to a statement and answers to questions from Opal Comfort, Director, Communications and Marketing  for Florida Memorial University, the university is doing everything it is supposed to.

“Since February, Florida Memorial University has been transparent and aggressive about communicating its goals and intentions regarding the safety of the University family (www.fmuniv.edu/coronavirus). Before the Governor declared a state of emergency, FMU proactively responded to the impending COVID-19 pandemic by transitioning to remote learning within three days, re-scheduling commencement exercises, and immediately suspending athletic competition.

We continue to be dedicated in our efforts to protect the campus, and especially our student athletes, through mandatory testing, wearing of masks, temperature checks, and increased sanitization.

The Administration also sends a communication each time the University receives notification of a reported case. FMU has an isolation program for students who test positive, which includes either on-campus quarantine or transportation to an isolation hotel at no cost to the student. Both isolation programs also include meal delivery.

Since the summer semester, the University deployed healthcare resources for screening and mandated campus-wide testing. The University is transitioning to remote learning after the Thanksgiving holiday.

Most recently, the campus was closed to outside visitors, and the University is expanding the healthcare staff to expedite campus-wide testing.

FMU stands united to protect the Lion Pride!”

     Who is the testing source for the COVID? Each Thursday, The Jessie Trice Community Center comes on campus and tests. In addition, testing is provided at the Hard Rock Stadium at no charge, Monday through Friday.

     How many known cases are there? FMU is in the process of creating a dashboard to monitor COVID-19 cases implementation is to keep our community informed, tomorrow at the latest.

What financial hardships would this place upon the athletic programs in general and the institution in particular? Sorry, I don’t have the answer.

     What would make families and those in concern believe that our campus is safe? FMU follows CDC guidelines as stated in the previous statement sent to you. The video also demonstrates the lengths FMU has taken to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

Visit thewestsidegazette.com
to view a video cerning the University’s
procedures for COVID-19 precautions.


About Carma Henry 16428 Articles
Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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