While Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. Commemorative Breakfast, which was held in the SBI presentation center was widely considered a success, some students left the event disappointed and disgusted with the University’s choice in guest speakers.
“We’re upset about the audacity of [President Gainous] to invite Gov. Bush to such a prestigious event,” Jehiel Oliver said in reference to the breakfast.
Oliver, 21, and twenty other FAMU students protested the invitation of Gov. Jeb Bush to the breakfast. Student protesters passed out fliers that expressed their displeasure with Bush’s ideology compared to King’s.
The fliers illustrated some of King’s stances on issues concerning blacks and examples of Gov. Bush’s opposition to those beliefs.
Among the grievances covered by the flier were Bush’s legislative resistance to affirmative action and a quote he gave in1994 in which he said he would “probably do nothing” to help black Floridians.
After the fliers were circulated to the attendees at the breakfast, the students left the program in protest.
Oliver, an economics and business student from Cleveland, said more students would have protested if Gov. Bush’s invitation had been more publicized
He believed there was a lack of publicity because of the University’s fear of possible student backlash.
News of the protest appeared on BET Nightly News and the Associated Press wire service.
SGA President Larry O. Rivers said having Gov. Bush at the event was an opportunity to build a positive relationship with him. Rivers, who was seen balling up some of the fliers, called attention to the $ 30 million Public Education Capital Outlay contract Bush approved for the University, which helped fund construction projects.
“Gov. Bush is responsible for signing every check the University receives,” Rivers said.
Rivers said, although students may oppose Bush’s belief, “We (FAMU) are not opposed to getting large amounts of money from legislatures and government.”
The SGA has made several attempts to invite Gov. Bush to the University for an academic forum where students would be able to ask the governor questions. His office has repeatedly refused the invitations.
Love Collins, vice president for development, said the University recognizes the freedom of expression and appreciates different views. According to Collins, this was the reason why Bush was invited to speak.
“Capturing a multicultural blend of all citizens of the United States is a commitment that the University upholds,” Collins said.
Both Rivers and Collins commended the students for handling themselves with dignity and class.
“[The students’ behavior] is reflective of the caliber, sharpness, brightness, and professional courtesy our students would show to anyone,” Collins said.
“We are not where we want to be, but the only way to get there is by stepping forward.”