Monday at noon, students gathered around the eternal flame near the Orange room for a rally that the organizers are calling the “State of Fate of FAMU.”
The protest challenged FAMU administration, particularly Interim President Castell Bryant, to give students answers about issues recently in the media.
Kyle Washington, a sophomore physical education student from Tallahassee, Fla., planned and gave a detailed speech at the event. Washington voiced his disappointment with many issues at FAMU including financial aide problems, on-campus safety, lack of summer school classes, the recent preliminary audit deficit and FAMU engineering school change of financial power. Washington urged his fellow students to take action.
“We as rattlers have become exactly what they have expected,” Washington said. “Students must shape the fate and state of FAMU.”
Washington maintained that FAMU student’s actions reflect the leadership and students are at a crossroads.
“Today is the day we will ask questions and this week is the week we will get answers,” Washington said. Washington pleaded with each student who was there to write down and submit into a box any questions they have concerning the school. Supporters of the rally passed out slips of paper and pencils during the speech so each student who chose to write a question could do so. Tuesday, the protest will continue in a second-part demonstration. Students who attended on Monday were encouraged to tell their friends to come and submit a question. The questions will be typed into letter form and submitted to intern President Castell Bryant. Washington requested a response to the questions from Bryant by Friday April 6 at 2 p.m.
Miesha Williams, a senior economics student from Tallahassee, Fla., said, like many students, Bryant must respond in person to these questions. Williams said, “If she doesn’t respond to us, we will have sit-ins in her, Gov. Charlie Crist’s, and (Provost Debra Austin’s) office.”
“If she doesn’t know, then that’s a problem,” Washington said.
The Student Government Association supported student’s rights to protest, however representatives from SGA want this matter to be resolved in a respectful way on the student’s part
Student Body President Phillip Agnew and Student Body Vice President Monique Gillum both attended the protest along with several other members of the three branches of the student government association.
Agnew left class early to attend the rally and provide students with any information he knew. In Agnew’s speech, he defended some of universities highlighted “political failures.”
He acknowledged the financial struggles FAMU has encountered while ensuring the student body that FAMU is not the only school with problems.
“Four hundred thousand dollars was stolen from FSU in the financial aid department. Greek students are being killed at UCLA. We have financial issues,” Agnew said. “We don’t have any financial problems different from any other university. Florida A&M University is not the worst school in the state.”
Agnew also told students to check class enrollment everyday as more classes are being added incrementally.
Students asked the student body president a number of questions including inquiries about students not being paid and the questionable accreditation of the school of pharmacy. One student said that she had not been paid since January.
Agnew responded that deans and administration were not filling out documents correctly. He also said that SGA could produce documents that prove steps are being taken to ensure the accreditation of the pharmacy school.
He wanted the students listening to know that he was not speaking as an administrator, but as a fellow student with that same problems and concerns.
He told the students that his financial aide information gets lost every year and he knows the hardships that this department can cause. Agnew advises students to make copies of every thing.
“All of your questions are not going to get answered because the administrators don’t know all the answers,” Agnew said.
Henry L. Kirby, associate vice president and dean of student affairs at FAMU, was one of the few faculty members that attended the rally.
Several workers in the Lee Hall auditorium were seen watching the protest through windows in the building. Washington urged the staff to come out and be a part of the action. None came out. Kirby said, “As long as students comply with the University’s procedure and policies, which they have, they are exercising their right.”
According to the Freedom of Assembly-Demonstration Policy found in the Fang Student Handbook 2006-2007, students or other members of the University body are free to assemble as long as they do not disrupt the operation of the University or interfere with the rights of students or other members of the University community. The policy goes on to say:
•Demonstrations, picketing, and speeches must not be in violation of the state or local statues, Board of Governors policies, or university regulations governing unlawful assembles.
•Student organizations, individual students, or student groups with the university may hold or conduct demonstrations and protest meetings on designated university property provided that the director of student activities is notified on the proper form at least 24 hours before the demonstration or protest meeting and does not interfere with the orderly process of the university.
•Students, who participate in protest marches, protest picketing and demonstrations are held accountable for any actions not in keeping with the regulations of the university and the laws of the state of Florida.
Washington said he wants to take action because he loves FAMU. However, he feels that the administration is segregating itself from the students. Washington said he had to do something when his mom, who works for FAMU, recently asked him if he wanted to continue his education there.
“When people ask, ‘What’s going on at FAMU?’ We want to say, ‘It’s been taken care of.’ ” Washington said, “We can only say what we think and what we see on the news. We want someone to come down here and say, ‘Everything is going to be alright.’ “