Students protested several issues outside the University Center during Gov. Nathan Deal and Chancellor Hank Huckaby’s visit on Sept. 16 at 11:30 a.m.
The protest had several different purposes: the diversity of the presidential search committee; the execution of Troy Davis; the appointment of Philip Kent, Phil Kent Consulting Inc., president, author and political and media commenter, to the Immigration Enforcement Review Board; and House Bill 87: Georgia Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act.
Due to the short notice of the governor’s visit, the students were unable to schedule a meeting with the governor and felt the protest was the only way to get his attention, Kathryn Grant, a senior general studies major, said.
“We feel he should spend more time with students, like a town hall meeting,” Grant said. “Rather than protest, we would have preferred that.”
They were unable to get a permit and, when they arrived, they were asked to leave by the VSU PD, Grant said.
However, Dr. Louis Levy, interim president, allowed the students to stay, as long as they didn’t block the entrances and exits, Grant said.
“We (the students) have a right to talk to him,” Austin Sullivan, a senior anthropology major, said.
When Gov. Deal’s press conference began at 1 p.m., the students were allowed to come in but the VSU PD asked them to leave their signs outside.
“People carrying signs inside can be a safety hazard,” Levy said.
“The camera was focused on governor and others making the press conference. (It was) designed to be a press conference, not a town meeting.”
VSU sent out an email to student leaders about the chancellor’s visit; there was no article published on the website’s homepage.
Bobbi Hancock, a senior sociology major, said one of her motivations for protesting was the unequal representation of departments and the student population on the Presidential Search Committee.
The Presidential Search Committee, who is looking for the next VSU president before the new fiscal year, consists of 12 faculty and community members, as well as SGA president and junior, political science major, Graham Davis.
Right now, the departments that are represented are Information Technology, SGA, Mathematics and Computer Science, Management and International Business, Office of the Registrar, College of Education, Accounting Financial Services and College of Nursing, in addition to the local businesses and institutions.
Departments such as College of the Arts and Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Criminal Justice do not have faculty members serving on the board.
The governor said his office has no opinion on the matter, and the chancellor, who will be involved in the final decision, hopes the search will go well.
A core issue for Grant and Sullivan was in regards to the execution of Troy Davis.
Another central issue for the protestors regarded Kent’s new position on the Immigration Enforcement Review Board created under House Bill 87. According to the Atlanta Journal Constitution, some of the clauses under the bill enforce new standards in checking the citizenship of employees and allow local and state police to arrest illegal immigrants.
Kent is part of the Americans for Immigration Control and American Immigration Control Foundation in Monterey, Va., both listed under Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map. Kent also advocates his anti-illegal immigrant views on his columns posted on his website.
“He is a qualified appointee,” Dent said. “I think there is a misunderstanding about what board does. They don’t determine anyone’s immigration status…just verify systems by municipalities and by local governments are being followed.”
Wendy Kerstetter, a senior general studies major, brought up the issue of how Georgia was funding the board.
“The State is in a financial mess, as it is,” Kerstetter said. ”The counties will have to spend on law enforcement…and our jails will fill up because the Feds will not take misdemeanors but only aliens who are a threat to public safety, thus, more money from the citizens of Georgia.”
The protesters also spoke at the Women and Gender Studies’ “Borders, Immigrant and National Values: Shaping Immigration Policy to Benefit Everyone” lecture on Sept. 19 at 6 p.m. in the Student Union.
VSUPD was unable to comment on the protest.
Dr. Levy accepted the students and welcomed their ideas.
“An university is a place for free and open exchange of ideas,” he said. “They didn’t block entrances and exits. They were very respectful and didn’t get in people’s faces…Universities (are where) people can discuss different opinions in a positive way.”