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Florida State and FAMU students win Engineering School struggle

By Regina Joseph

Tallahassee, FL – Students here celebrated a victory Feb. 19. Students, community members, faculty and Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University (FAMU) administrators successfully prevented the Florida State University-FAMU Engineering School from being split apart.

The victory results from an organizing campaign targeting FSU President John Thrasher and Governor Rick Scott. The Board of Governors is now set to vote on the decision to stay unified and strengthen their relationship.

“Having the College of Engineering maintain its partnership is great news for both parties. Now we can focus on the known, solvable issues that can improve the execution of our mission, as opposed to being distracted by decisions that may or may not even result in research, educational and social goals both universities want to achieve,” explained Ruben Nelson, former Vice President of the National Society of Black Engineers.

The Tallahassee Dream Defenders and National Society for Black Engineers led the charge against the racist bill, first proposed by FSU’s current president John Thrasher. With the help of allies such as FAMU Student Government Association, FAMU President Dr. Elmira Mangum and Students for a Democratic Society, they resisted an attack on African American students’ education rights.

The coalition rejected the Engineering School split for several reasons. First, the decision was announced abruptly in between the transition of both the FAMU and the FSU presidents. Second, many denounced the proposal as ‘separate but equal.’ It also reminded many of FSU’s previous action to open a law school, resulting in the relocation of the FAMU’s law school to Orlando.

Coupled with photo petitions and a viral media campaign, the coalition of groups worked hard for victory. As reported previously by Fight Back! in 2014, “Students from Florida State University (FSU) and the historically Black college Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), gathered outside the state capitol building on the morning of April 23. Despite final exams, they joined together to speak out against the split of the joint FAMU-FSU Engineering School.”

Additionally, FAMU Student Government Association (SGA) successfully passed an amendment to condemn the split, but FSU’s student government did not. The students also had an ally, FAMU President Dr. Elmira Mangum, who supported the students. The FAMU SGA donated to the efforts of the Dream Defenders. Then, over the summer, students continued to organize. As a result, Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford postponed the decision until the next Board of Governors meeting in spring 2015. On Feb. 19, the Board will reinforce the existing relationship between the two universities.

“Powerful interests will always try to stop the power of students. It is up to us to collectively build that power to stop racist actions such as this,” said a smiling Shivaani Eshaan of Dream Defenders.

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