FAMU Announces Move to the SWAC and Debuts Fall Campus Reopening Plan, and Former Saint Augustine's President Says Coronavirus Demands a New HBCU Model

Florida A&M Trustees Approve Move to the SWAC, Announce Fall Campus Reopening Plan

Trustees at Florida A&M University voted unanimously today to join the Southwestern Athletic Conference in 2021, marking the second member school defection from the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conferences in the last three months and the third institution to leave since 2017.

"Today is a defining moment in the history of Florida A&M University and the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics," VP/Director of Athletics Kortne Gosha said. "Our decision to explore this move to the SWAC was the result of exhaustive internal and external collaboration. I want to first thank President Dr. Larry Robinson for his leadership and unwavering support of athletics and our 329 student-athletes.”

FAMU originally joined the MEAC in 1979, and following a three-year attempt at Division I-AA independent NCAA competition rejoined the conference in 1986. Rattler track and field was the university’s dominant sport during its MEAC membership, collecting more than 34 conference titles in men’s and women’s track and 15 cross country championships over its 38 total years in the league, according to the Tallahassee Democrat.

The move to the SWAC overshadowed another vote by the FAMU Board of Trustees to approve a reopening plan for summer school and the fall semester beginning this month.

According to officials, the university will use strict temperature testing in most facilities and will provide all faculty, staff, and students with masks and hand sanitizer, in addition to stationing hand washing and shielding in facilities throughout the campus.

“This plan presents a set of comprehensive measures taken for the benefit of faculty, staff and students as we ramp up on-campus operations,” said President Larry Robinson, Ph.D. “We will do all we can to continue to provide exceptional experiences for our students and address the well-being of our faculty and staff.  Their return to campus will be a vote of confidence in us. We will not take that lightly.”

Smaller class sizes and expanded daily and weekend class schedules will be developed to accommodate students returning to campus for hybrid in-person and online offerings for a semester that will end in-person instruction with the Thanksgiving break, with the remainder of the semester offered online.

Residential student capacity will be limited to 69 percent of regular occupancy, or about 1,900 students. Student-athletes will return in phases, with 180 football, basketball, and volleyball student-athletes scheduled to report to campus four weeks prior to the scheduled start of the fall semester, with just over 300 athletes returning during general student reporting dates.

According to officials, student-athletes from geographic areas experiencing significant community transmission will be quarantined for 14 days before being allowed to participate in practice or athletic-related activities.

Faculty and staff will also return in phases:

Wave 1- June 15, 2020: Essential employees (continued) employees from low risk, high priority areas. These include the Senior Leadership Team, Finance etc.

Wave 2: July 1, 2020: Up to 25 percent of workforce returns based on risk assessment and capacity.

Wave 3: July 15, 2020: Up to 50 percent of workforce returns based on risk assessment and capacity.

Wave 4: Aug. 1, 2020: Up to 75 percent of workforce returns based on risk assessment and capacity.

Officials say that three infections on campus will trigger additional measures to reduce the possibility of an outbreak. The plan will be submitted to the Florida Board of Governors for approval at its scheduled meeting on June 23.

LISTEN: Former Saint Augustine’s President Dianne Boardley Suber

Dr. Suber discusses the need for HBCUs to consider creating a new model of education to respond to changes forced by the coronavirus pandemic.