By Larry Robinson, Ph.D.
Since our founding in 1887, FAMU has dedicated itself to fulfilling its motto “Excellence with Caring.” And while our legacy is filled with great achievements and a reputation for a premier student experience, we are a human institution that sometimes has missed the mark. However, even in those moments, we have always found a way to make excellence a priority, and not lose sight of our commitment to caring.
While 2,088 students moved in on time to eight of our other housing facilities without any major issues, we fell short at Palmetto North with delays and outstanding renovations.
Although last week’s unfortunate move-in delay for our new students assigned to Palmetto North was not our best day as a University, we took immediate corrective action and within 72 hours were able to resume normal operations with the help of the entire University community, including alumni and students.
Together, we sent a strong message that we will never settle for mediocrity and will do what it takes to ensure our students have the best experience possible.
FAMU’s core values include accountability, collaboration, service, integrity and fiscal responsibility. Keeping those in mind, University leaders and staff worked hard to identify what caused the delay and took steps to ensure that this situation does not occur again.
Our decision to open additional living spaces was made knowing that research shows freshman students tend to be more successful when they live on campus. With the good news of freshman enrollment exceeding our initial expectations along with more than anticipated residential housing applications, we began to identify alternative on-campus housing options for first-year students. As a result, we decided to open Palmetto North.
But with all of the hard work and preparation to make room for our students, we did not accurately project the time it would take to have all the maintenance issues resolved in our Palmetto North residential units. It was not until the scheduled move-in day that we were advised that those units would not be ready as planned.
Accordingly, teams across campus quickly developed a plan of action, which began with notifying students and their families that their move-in would be delayed for about 72 hours, which gave us sufficient time to complete the necessary maintenance. About 45 students arrived to check in during the original move-in period, and we were able to place them in local hotels, provide transportation for them to and from campus, arrange meal services on campus, offer free temporary storage, and reimbursement to the parents for their extended stay until the units were ready.
In addition, we offered assistance to approximately 10 students who decided to move off campus by inviting them to our off-campus housing fair and covering deposit payments for their apartments, which will be returned to the University upon the expiration or termination of their lease. We are also working with all Palmetto North students who remained on-campus to discount their first-semester residential fees.
To ensure a continued higher level of service to our students, we are conducting additional follow-ups within each unit at Palmetto North, making sure every student is housed in a safe, healthy and clean environment.
Every student who checked in for housing at Palmetto North has been placed in an apartment or room on campus. All 164 spaces are now open and fully operational, and all known issues have been corrected.
Every student and every parent deserve the facts. Of those spaces with maintenance issues in Palmetto North, perhaps 10 had moisture issues – all of which have been addressed. Routine repairs and maintenance
addressed the other issues.
No students remain in hotels, and no student was turned away from on-campus housing. The 14 remaining available beds in Palmetto North will be offered to students on our housing waiting list. The upgrades at Palmetto North have led to considerable student and parent satisfaction.
Christian Rowe, a first-year graphic design student from Chicago, came to move into Palmetto North with the help of his aunt and uncle early last week. “Easy” is how Christian explained the move-in process once the units
at Palmetto North officially reopened on last Friday. He complimented the University for working hard to make things right. “I think they (the University) did what they could do despite the move-in delay,” he said.
He also was impressed with the help he received from staff and other students.
Said freshman Shederia Williams from Miami, who is pursuing a degree in nursing: “You guys came through. The move-in was pleasant.” Her roommate Toni Green, an architecture student from St. Louis, echoed her
sentiments. Marie Ducarne, a criminal justice student from Miami by way of Haiti, commented that the move-in process went more “swiftly” than expected.
To hear the satisfaction of our students made every early morning and late night that it took to get Palmetto North back online worthwhile and rewarding. Our team will continue to make sure that our new Rattlers are
satisfied with their housing experience. While I am proud of the great display of caring over the course of last week, I want each of our stakeholders to know that we will not accept anything less than excellence when it comes to housing – and all that is associated with
Florida A&M University.
Please view photos of our move-in efforts across campus at the following link: http://wp.me/p3WGOt-2UZ