From town hall meetings to student petitions, the Student Government Association continues its efforts to push for change in the controversy surrounding Interim
President Henry Lewis and the board of trustees.
In a SGA sponsored town hall meeting Thursday night at the student activities building, student body vice president Andre Hammel addressed the logistics of the situation and requested that the students take a bigger role in the debate over Lewis’ possible candidacy for FAMU president.
“This meeting was a call for emergency,” Hammel said. “We, the students, are the most necessary constituency base.”
The meeting also opened the door to any questions or concerns from the students.
“We answered the students’ questions to the best of our ability,” said Larry O.Rivers, the director of student lobbying. “It was a good, revealing evening.”
In addition, the meeting formally introduced the petition drive. SGA officials, along with various students passionate about the issue at hand, have been urging other students to sign a petition requesting the consideration of Lewis for FAMU president.
“The goal is 5,000 (signatures). I don’t know about you, but I don’t see 5,000 students any time outside of Homecoming, so when you get students of this magnitude, you know they’ve got to act on it,” Hammel said.
Basically, the petition is in hopes of overturning Board Policy. The current policy has stipulations that prevent Lewis from the presidency because of his active position as interim president.
However, students are questioning why the board felt he was qualified for the temporary job, but aren’t even considering him for the more permanent role.
“Obviously, they thought he had the credentials for that job, why not the presidency?” said Adrienne Huffman, a sophomore computer and electrical engineering student from Birmingham, Ala. “I’m sure they didn’t go out and get Bozo the Clown, just to fill the position.”
Huffman, a member of the National Society of Black Engineers, was just one of the roomful of students at the NSBE meeting who listened to Hammel’s presentation of the petition in the FAMU/FSU engineering building, shortly after the town hall meeting concluded.
“It was good for Hammel to get out here, it’s rare that you see someone from FAMU out at the E-Building,” Huffman commented.
In both locations, Hammel made known that the petition was not to make Lewis the next FAMU president. Rather, it is an effort to help the board of trustees realize that Lewis should at least be considered.
“We should include, not exclude,” Rivers added.
“The Board made a decision that at the time seemed appropriate; now, there’s a need to adjust to the recent developments and listen to the university and its students.”
Currently, the majority of communication between SGA and the board of trustees has been by way of telephone calls and e-mail messages. The next meeting will take place Monday at 9 a.m. in a conference-call format.
“The plan now is to keep up the momentum until the Board of Trustees meeting on Monday,” Rivers said.
After Monday, the two sides won’t officially meet again until Feb. 21.
“That meeting will be the ideal climate instead of via telephone,” Hammel said. “It’s of great importance that we lay our point across at that meeting.”
“At this meeting, we will have reached the pinnacle of public interest,” Rivers said. “There will be people not only from FAMU campus, but from across the state in attendance.”
Hammel stressed that the actions taken early in the process are the only ways to considerably affect the final decision to be made by the Board.
“People should realize that if we waited until every student agreed, we would never act on anything. But 5,000 students are a lot and are worth doing something about,” Hammel remarked.
“Anyone that has the interim position should at least have a shot at the presidency,” added Huffman.
“Hopefully, the board will come to a consensus and hopefully that consensus will be towards the person who we feel is the best decision for Florida A&M University,” Rivers concluded.