Those of us who have been working with Royal Caribbean on a mutually beneficial partnership based on the Biscayne Bay Campus are disappointed on your recent editorial. Our thinking and motivation all along has been completely student centered. In fact, the benefits this would bring to you, the student, are the only reasons for us to enter into this public/private partnership.
First the facts: FIU is working with Royal Caribbean LTD to create a production, rehearsal and performance facility at BBC. The relationship is still being negotiated; no contract has been signed at this time. I will share with you the broad outlines of the conversation and how this will benefit our students.
• Starting in 2015 Royal Caribbean employees would take over the existing student housing at BBC. These buildings were slated to be demolished by then to make way for new student housing. We are now in the process of designing new student housing at a different location in BBC to be ready in 2015.
• Royal Caribbean will build a $25 million building near the housing complex where they will train their performers. This will be a state-of-the-art facility unlike any that exists currently in South Florida. This facility will have “rigging” capabilities -think flying performers a la Cirque de Soleil. Our theater students will have access to this building for master classes, mock auditions and other custom workshops and training to be conducted by Royal Caribbean entertainment professionals working on the front lines of the entertainment industry.
• Royal Caribbean will become our partner in offering experiential learning opportunities to our students that will be invaluable as students enter the job market. For example: they will conduct exclusive behind the scenes shipboard tours and provide access to their management teams in entertainment and operations.
• Starting in fall 2014, Royal Caribbean will provide 20 paid internships for FIU students. These opportunities – shipboard and on land will be invaluable to our students in the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management as well as those in the College of Architecture + the Arts.
• Royal Caribbean employees must at a minimum adhere to our campus code of conduct, but are also subject to their company’s code of conduct, which is more stringent than the FIU student code of conduct. These new residents are likely to be great neighbors and having them on campus will also allow us to expand the dining offerings and hours of operation at BBC, which is something BBC students have wanted. As in already the case, through SGA, Campus Life at BBC has an array of ongoing activities to keep students involved and active. These include various events in Panther Square, in the auditorium and ballrooms, and on the bay. The lecture series is one of the highlights on campus during the year. All of these activities will continue and will be expanded as conditions and funding allow.
Your editorial also casts a negative light on plans for a MAST academy at BBC. These plans are moving forward and, just like the partnership with Royal Caribbean, this partnership with Miami-Dade Public School System is designed to benefit our university community. In addition, it creates a pipeline of high-performing STEM students, it benefits the local community and it helps us create a more vibrant BBC community that is even more focused on science, technology, engineering and math.
-Larry Lunsford, Vice President for Student Affairs