Students lead BOG protest

Students are staging a protest today on the steps of Lee Hall at 11 a.m. to stop FAMU from being considered as one of six Florida colleges and universities that could be changed into an institution that only grants four-year degrees.

“The Takeover Pt. II” is the name of the protest led by student Amir Shabazz, 21, a junior philosophy student from Fort Myers.

Shabazz said he was moved to action after reading an article about a Pappas Consulting Group report for the Florida Board of Governors that listed FAMU as one of the universities considered for changes under the state’s higher education proposal.

The Jan. 15 report listed FAMU and five other schools as “natural choices to form the foundation of the new state college system.”

In an April 5 Diverse Online article titled “FAMU Among Florida Colleges Targeted by Report for Massive Changes,” writer Blair S. Walker said the proposal could dramatically transform FAMU, which is renowned for its pharmacy school and MBA program.

“The issue is more from the state level,” Shabazz said. “We will address the Florida Board of Governors, who has influenced the SUS (State University System of Florida) and do not act in the best interest of the students.” He also said the University Board of Trustees does not adequately operate as the voice of the students and the faculty.

“This is a walk-out protest,” Shabazz said. “The reason I chose the protest at Lee Hall is because this marks the anniversary of the protest held April 10, 1996 where students addressed problems at the University.”

Shabazz and other students have worked since Monday, passing out flyers around campus to urge their peers to show up to protest wearing red T-shirts.

“The red T-shirts are for solidarity, and the red represents fire and passion for the University,” Shabazz said. “I have talked to a lot of students that showed interest and concern about the state of FAMU.”

Jamaal Fields, a fellow protester and organizer from Philadelphia, said, “If we get the students aware of the issue, then they’ll want to change it.”

Fields, 21, a third-year business student, said, “It’s an awareness thing. I think if we can just get out there and show the students that we are standing up for the school, they will, too.”

The organizers said they plan to attack the problems instead of making personal attacks on individuals.

“FAMU’s problem is lack of good leadership from all levels,” Shabazz said. “Basically, I see the protest as a history lesson. It’s going to constantly be that until we address the issues and hold the state responsible, and our selected leaders must do the job that they are in place to do by being the voice of the people.”

Shabazz said some students are concerned that by exposing the issues, the state will have more of a reason to target the school.

“The state is responsible for the problems the University is facing,” he said. “The state placed elected officials in office that don’t represent the people but who sweep matters under the rug.”