Students Lead ‘Grand Theft Education’ Protests

One way or another, student voices were heard at the Florida A&M Board of Trustees meeting and gained attention through a protest, opposing the approved restructuring plans that cut various programs and employee positions.

Students organized a demonstration in front of the board in the midst of President James H. Ammons’ proposal on Thursday to restructure the university.

The protest organizers were a part of a student-led movement called Grand Theft Education. The group consists of students Makhicia Brooks, Carly Jackson, Jordan Hadley, Reamonn Soto, Brittney Jacobs, Chasity Jones and Ciara Taylor.

Among the organizers was Ciara Taylor who spoke during the Board of Trustees meeting.

“The purpose of this protest was to oppose the irresponsible budget cuts and changes to education through president Ammons restructuring plan,” Taylor said.

Taylor believes that student’s lack of attendance during the protest was a result of the group not being able to reach many students in the short amount of time they had to organize the meeting.

Sunsera Music, 19, a sophomore English education student from Orlando, was able to make the protest and felt as if she was making a true difference.

“I attended because FAMU is very important to me and everything that goes on, I feel like the students need to be aware of,” Music said.

Music’s program, like 23 others, was approved to be cut since being tagged as low productive.

“I feel like you don’t cut English education because education is the basis of our very existence and you can’t do anything if you don’t know how to read or write properly. So you can’t function in society,” Music said. “We need to keep English education; as a matter of fact we need to boost it, we need to get more people coming in.”

But despite Music’s argument, like countless others, the plans were sought through and finalized on Thursday. However, the battle rages on for students as they fight to save their programs.

“Many students weren’t aware of what exactly the plan entailed prior to the protest and now they are asking questions,” Taylor said. “This is only the beginning of many more protests to come.”

Brandon Mitchell, 19, a third-year business administration student from Jacksonville, Fla., thinks that students need to start getting informed and start paying attention to what’s going on around them, so not only do they see but they understand.

“Students need to utilize something that they’ve had since they’ve been here but haven’t been utilizing which is their voice and they need to tighten up as a whole,” Mitchell said. “I think right now, we’re just aggravated about what’s going on campus with the re-tooling. We’re aggravated about the budget cuts and all the money getting cut by the governor, but we’re not tired.”

Mitchell said that in order for the student body’s voice to be heard, more has to be done to show that they mean business.

“We got to do more. I don’t think as though the administration is taking us seriously and I don’t think the governor is taking his people seriously, so we have to do more so that they can understand our message,” Mitchell said.

Grand Theft Education stresses the importance of student involvement in this issue.

“No one is going to fight for us,” Taylor said. “If we want a proper education, we have to take it. No one is going to hand it to us anymore.”

A town hall meeting will be held today at B.L. Perry in room 101 from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m., to further discuss he issue and what can be done to help.