Aviation Accreditation Board International, AABI, has given the University three requirements it needs to meet to be accredited by February 2013. The requirements are hire more faculty, hire an aviation mechanic and address the flight education facility’s needs.
By the end of the Spring 2013 semester, there will be no more tenure professors in the aviation management program.
The College of Business’s dean, Bill Hardgrave, has responded to those requirements, but has still not hired on additional faculty to the program, said Jason Mohrman, 1997 Auburn alum.
“I can only think it would be a move to more or less remove the program because without the accreditation, Auburn would (lose) the just signed a contract with Jet Blue Airways, called the University Gateway Program, which allows Auburn students in the aviation program to do internships and have networking opportunities with Jet Blue after they graduate,” Mohrman said.
The Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs, Tim Boosinger, addressed in an email to concerned alum, David Upchurch, that because of unprecedented events, such as the recent death of one of the tenure professors in the aviation program, no decisions have been made, but the University is dedicated to the students currently in the program.
Mike Clardy, director of university communication services, also said that no decisions regarding the program have been made at this time.
“There is no doubt the program has declined over time to about one third the size it was 10 years ago,” Clardy said. “What is less clear is why the program has declined. To understand this trend, we have looked at, among other things, similar programs at other institutions as well as industry factors. These and many other considerations will inform our long term plans”
Clardy said that the college has some near-term issues to address due to the recent loss of two faculty.
“Primarily, to ensure we have a sufficient number of qualified faculty in the classroom this fall,” Clardy said. “Our immediate and top priority is to help the students currently in the program.”
Another problem the program is having is that the College of Business only looks at the number of declared students in the program when documenting numbers, said Lee Mills, 1997 Auburn alum.
“Most students don’t declare their major until they are juniors and seniors and before that they are just pre-business,” Mills said. “When the dean reports the number of students in the aviation management program to the provost it doesn’t include the number of students who are pre-business and plan to go into the aviation management program. I would say that maybe they’re not telling the whole story.”
President Jay Gogue has addressed this issue, but did not say how the college was going to handle it.
Auburn’s aviation program is the oldest continuously running aviation program in the nation.
“The faculty we have deeply care,” said Bennett Nast, senior in aviation management. “They don’t just teach you what’s in the textbook. They take so much from their lives to teach experience in aviation. They challenge the way you think.”
Nast said that the 3,800 alumni will help graduates and current students make connections for jobs around the world.
“I interned at United Airlines up in Chicago and someone helped pass my resume to the hiring manager is an Auburn alum from the aviation program,” Nast said.
The program does not just take money from the University.
“We provide $500,000 to the airport, which is University owned, in fuel revenue alone,” said David Hoebelheinrich. “It’s not like we are taking a lot of resources away from the University. We are actually paying the University quite a bit.”
This is not the first time the aviation program has seen some drastic changes.
In 1998, the aviation program moved from the College of Engineering to the College of Business.
“At the time it was more of a lack of resources at the airport and lack of flight training instructors and that has pretty much been solved,” Mills said. “The way that we handle the lack of flight training, we had a shortage of airplanes, was we went to other airports and receive some flight training and instruction to supplement what we had at Auburn. We can’t do that on the education side of things.”
After moving to the College of Business it allowed students to become well-rounded individuals, Mills said.
“It’s really a gem of a program because it doesn’t focus, say like Embry Riddle, which is an all aviation university, on just aviation,” Mills said. “We focus on business, which is big. When you’re a pilot a company will talk about business.”
Governor Robert Bentley has declared Alabama an aviation state.
“If Alabama is going to be declared an aviation state, we certainly don’t want to lose our only accredited four-year aviation program in the state,” Mills said.
The aviation students have created a petition at flyauburn.org that currently has over 2,000 signatures and has over 100,000 hits since Thursday, April 4.
“One of our big goals was to get our voices heard and I think we’ve managed to do that as students,” said Blake Schuette, captain of the War Eagle Flying Team.
Although the students, faculty and alumni are expressing their concerns about the strained accreditation process of the program, they do not want to point fingers at anyone, Hoebelheinrich said.
“The student campaign is simply raising awareness for our program and I has really brought the students together,” Hoebelheinrich said. “We want to raise awareness for aviation showing the possibility of growth that we can have and showing the depth of how far we can go and what we can really do with the resources necessary for the program that we all love.”