Students sit in to protest elections

Gallop Franklin and Dominick Ardis along with close to 30 other students conducted a sit-in at the president’s office in Florida A&M University’s Lee Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

“What we’re asking for is a new election and an investigation,” said Ardis, 20, a junior health care management student from Tallahasee.

Within the square lobby of the fourth floor, students sat and lay around the room with book bags and laptops, prepared to spend the night in Lee Hall in order to see President James H. Ammons.

Franklin’s and Ardis’ reason for wanting to see Ammons is the hope that Ammons might bring justice to light dealing with the spring 2008 elections.

Franklin, 20, a junior pharmacy student from Tallahassee, and Ardis were the student body president candidates who were not elected. After that, Franklin and Ardis filed for an appeal and a trial was held March 19 and April 2. After questioning seven witnesses and providing various forms of evidence such as early voting, irregular precinct procedures and alleged forgery of signatures, Supreme Court justices voted in favor of the electoral commissioner.

Ardis stressed that they needed a response from Ammons by Friday.

“It was the justice’s decision, but time is a sensitive matter,” Ardis said.

Franklin and Ardis said that in the face of evidence that showed fraud, it was an injustice to rule in the Electoral Commission’s favor.

“It’s time for things to change,” Ardis said. “We waited 21 days to receive voting rolls. We realize that we’re here for a higher purpose.”

Ardis said when entering Lee Hall the protestors ran into Ammons while entering the elevator to go to his office.

Ardis said Ammons was in a rush and had to tend to a meeting. They were not able to speak to him.

“We understand that he is a busy person; that’s why we are willing to wait,” Ardis said.

Rosalind Fuse-Hall, chief of staff in the office of the president and board of trustees’ liaison, addressed the students within the lobby of the fourth floor.

Fuse-Hall said there was nothing the president’s administration could do at that time and asked that the students fill out an appointment form and come back today.

Kyle Washington, co-counsel to Franklin and Ardis, filled out the form along with Ardis. But still, the party stayed.

“We’re staying until the president answers. We’re not leaving,” Washington said.

“As long as we’re not disrupting educational flow, we’re not disrupting any rules.”

Washington explained the desired result of the sit-in with four words.

“Accountability, fairness, justice and equality,” Washington said.

Ardis was referred to Roland Gaines, vice president of student affairs. Gaines told Franklin and Ardis that administrators will have a decision by Thursday and will conduct an internal investigation.

Franklin and Ardis said they are willing to go as far as they have to.

“The next stop is the governor’s office if this does not work,” Ardis said.

Franklin showed no sign of giving up his fight for justice.

“There is fraud in place, and that’s criminal,” said. “I’m a fighter and there is no type of spirit in me that is willing to give up.”

Ardis said other students wanted the action to come about as well.

“It was the students. They have been coming to me left and right asking for us to do something,” Ardis said. “We have to take a step of faith.”