Senators, Faculty Oppose Georgia’s Proposed HBCU Merger Bill
A bill seeking to combine three of Georgia’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities into a new university system has faced opposition from a group of senators, alumni, and faculty.
Introduced on March 28, the Georgia Senate Bill 273 initially proposed combining Fort Valley State University, Albany State University and Savannah State University to form the “Georgia Agricultural and Mechanical University System” (Georgia A & M).
Georgia State Sen. Lester Jackson, one of the bill’s six sponsors, cited low endowments, low enrollment rates, a lack of student and alumni involvement with the selection of presidents, a lack of equity compared to other universities, and historical under-funding as drivers of the bill, WALB News 10 reported.
“Our main avenue is to work with the university system,” Jackson told HBCUBUZZ. “We want to be included in the university system but we want equity. We want the same things that the other institutions are getting. We want help in recruiting the best and brightest.”
However, after receiving backlash over changing the names of the schools, five out of six state senators withdrew their names from the bill. This forced Sen. Jackson to introduce a revised bill that scrapped the part about the merger and sought feedback from stakeholders and alumni.
“As alumni of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs), we understand the critical role HBCUs play in black communities throughout the state,” five senators who withdrew their support to the bill said in a statement. “These institutions were the first schools which allowed black students to obtain higher education, and Georgia is fortunate to house many of the leading HBCUs through the nation.
“It is this appreciation and respect of our HBCUs that cause use to rescind our support of SB 273. The bill was initially portrayed as a support measure for HBCUs, but contains many unnecessary and incomplete measures.”
Alumni, faculty, and students have expressed shock and concern over the latest developments, which they think could affect the identity of the colleges.
“Each one plays a vital role with regards to education in the state of Georgia,” Dr. Amir Toure, a professor at Savannah State, told WTOC 11. “Each one has its particular niche, and we need all three of them; not one, not two, all three of them.”
Monica Franklin-Redden, an alumnus of Albany State University, also expressed disappointment about the way the bill was introduced.
“My first reaction was one I would’ve rather heard about this bill from my institution. Secondly, to hear about this bill through social media rather than from my alumni association, I was a little bit disappointed,” Franklin-Redden told WALB News 10.
Savannah State University has voiced opposition to the bill as well.
“We were unaware of the proposal and surprised by it,” the statement reads. “We support the current structure of Georgia’s higher education system, which serves our students best.”