Florida Atlantic University has become the Real Housewives of academia—a hot mess that produces one unflattering episode after another. Over the past year, scandals have dogged the university—from selling the naming rights of its football stadium to a for-profit prison corporation (a deal that fell apart due to the controversy) to a professor’s “Jesus-stomping” assignment that drew national outrage. The negative publicity has led to the resignation of FAU president Mary Jane Saunders—and has caused considerable embarrassment to the city of Boca.
Sadly, this wave continues to crash. Last week, head football coach Carl Pelini resigned amid allegations—including a sworn affidavit by a coach on Pelini’s staff—that he had been seen using marijuana and cocaine.
Prior to that, the campus was rocked by a series of criminal incidents—some real, one not. On Oct. 18, a shooting occurred near Boca’s FAU campus in the 1800 block of Northwest 15th Vista. Through FAU’s alert system, students and staff received e-mails, phone calls and text messages to warn of the shooting’s proximity. Before students had time to catch their breath, another alert was issued the following day. This time an armed robbery had occurred in the Arts & Letters building.
Yet another armed robbery was reported Oct. 23; the victim, forced to drive to an ATM and withdraw cash by five attackers, claimed that he had been beaten and abandoned. The student later admitted that he fabricated the entire story. Still, the threat of crime continued to hang over the campus. While some students joke that the campus crime rate would diminish if police worried more about safety than parking tickets, the concern is real.
“I think it’s frustrating that our safe place is being violated with criminals threatening the lives of staff and students at FAU,” said Stefani Janvier, a communications major at FAU. That opinion echoes throughout the student body, many of which feel increasingly anxious while walking the campus.
As FAU determines its new president, it’s also time to chart a new path. And quickly. FAU has become a national punch line. While unfortunate events happen, FAU’s series is better left to the world of fiction. For the hardworking students still seeking their degrees, the impact has ramifications in the present and in the future.
In the short term, an examination of campus safety must take place. We shouldn’t have to walk to our cars in fear. In the long term, FAU needs to do whatever it takes to repair its reputation. Due to events out of our control, students investing time and hefty tuition may very well pay for the events of the past year. Will employers question the legitimacy of an FAU degree because the university’s reputation has been so tarnished?
We hope not. In the meantime, we expect the university to have our backs and make the changes necessary to reverse this unfortunate course.
Bridget Sweet, an English major at FAU who is on track to graduate in May 2015, is interning with Boca Raton magazine.