Students did not follow proper channels for protests

A group of students planning to protest the current state of the Office of Financial Aid were stopped at around 11:30 a.m. on, Oct. 6. Henry Kirby, associate vice president and dean of student affairs, blocked the students for not going through the proper channels to have a demonstration, Dorell Humphrey said.

According to the freedom of assembly-demonstration policy outlined in The Fang Student Handbook 2004-2007, “At Florida A&M University demonstrations, picketing and speeches must not be in violation of the state or local statutes Board of Regents policies, or University regulations governing unlawful assemblies.”

The policy goes on to say students on campus “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 as long as the demonstration or protest meeting does not interfere with the orderly process of the University.”

Lee Hall Auditorium, Charles Winterwood Theatre, Perry-Paige Auditorium and the Grand Ballroom are the locations that, according to the policy, are available for use for a demonstration or protest.

Humphrey, a 22-year-old healthcare management student from Gainesville and leader of the protest, said the intention of the protest was to be an “attention-getter.” Humphrey said although there have been claims to be a better financial aid office, he sees no improvement and feels that students have gotten complacent.

“Nothing has changed!” Humphrey said. “We just want to let the administration know that something must be done.”

“It’s not just the office of financial aid,” said Malika Stewart-Bey, a 20-year-old psychology student from Baltimore, and one of the students who planned to protest.

“We have to look at the bigger picture. Problems with financial aid have dwindled down from past problems that were never really solved,” Stewart-Bey said.

Kirby said his intentions were not to completely put a halt to the students’ actions. He said he wanted to come to a “happy medium” and make students aware of the proper policies and procedures they would have to take in order to demonstrate within university compliance.

Kirby also said he offered the students a setup in Lee Hall that would allow them to gather signatures for a petition, as well as microphones and staff from the financial aid office to answer questions.

“There is always a right to demonstrate on a college campus,” Kirby said. “But because of the educational settings there are limits put on the time and place of the demonstration.”

Ruth Campbell from the office of the university ombudsman said students should utilize all possible avenues prior to attempting to conduct a demonstration or protest.

“If you feel as though you are getting the run-around, try to speak directly with a supervisor at financial aid,” Campbell said. “Try sending an e-mail to the director, associate or assistant of financial aid.”

Campbell said as a last resort one should seek James McMillan, special assistant to the president for student financial services, to help solve their problems.

Last Friday, the students gathered a total of 485 signatures. There was also a mass e-mail sent through the FAMmail system that same day from the office of student financial aid.

In the email, the office of financial aid apologized for “the processing delays encountered over the past few weeks.” It went on to say, “A contributing factor to the delay is the large number of requests for student loans by students with lenders outside of the university’s selected lenders for the current year.”

The e-mail concluded by saying all approved loan, grant and scholarship students in complete status, which means having the promissory note signed and files verified, will be authorized by Oct. 13.

“I feel like my efforts were not in vain,” Humphrey said. “I think that through our efforts we got the ball rolling for administration to see that we do have a voice.”