Minority groups protest for change at Georgia Southern - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Minority groups protest for change at Georgia Southern

STATESBORO, GA (WTOC) -

A controversial post by a Georgia Southern University student has others gathering and asking for action and change.

They called her statement “racist” and they’re also using the discussion to bring up other complaints.

Hundreds of black students showed up to show their strength in numbers. For some it was about objecting to a student's social media rant about events at University of Missouri. She said she'd make anybody regret starting the topic with her. Many here took that to mean violence.

“Many were upset about the comments, but really more about the threat itself,” said Jamar Boyd, GSU NAACP.

It sparked a furor and backlash through social media. Administrators say they're sorting through it all.

“It's a conversation we start on Day One. We share our expectations regarding free speech but also our expectations of civility,” said Dean of Students Dr. Patrice Jackson

The NAACP’s list of demands or goals includes raising minority faculty to 12 percent, an audit of the Multicultural Student Center and displays that pays tribute to the university’s first black students back during integration.

The campus NAACP chapter asked students to walk out of classes at 11:45 a.m. and gather for a demonstration. But mainly served for a couple of announcements about gatherings on Wednesday.

"These are concerns that have been around for a long time. They occasionally come to the surface and we talk a little about them and then they die back down. But we need to bring some change beyond just talking,” said James Woodall, State University President, NAACP. “Dialogue has happened, change has not. At some point, we've got to move beyond just talking to each other and get things done,”

“Part of our message is that, with the issues coming to light in Missouri, these are deeper issues that need to come out beyond this post,” said Boyd.

They're planning a hour sit in Wednesday as well as a forum Wednesday night to discuss the issues they say need to move forward.

Another demand is for Interim President Dr. Jean Bartels to be named permanent president. No word on if she’s applied for the position or not.

Interim President Dr. Jean Bartels released a statement Tuesday:

"Dear Eagle Nation,

Yesterday, a posting by a student on social media resulted in increased conversation among students, parents, alumni, faculty, and staff on the issue of race in our community. Much of this conversation has been civil, constructive, and in keeping with behavior one would expect from educated individuals attempting to engage in productive discourse about a difficult issue. We are proud of those Eagles who have shared opinions and offered suggestions while maintaining the respectful environment we strive to achieve at Georgia Southern. If we are to improve our school, our nation, and our world, this type of respectful sharing of experiences and ideas is critical. We stand with all concerned individuals in our commitment to creating an institution where no student feels ignored, mistreated, or forgotten. We know we have work to do to reach this goal. To get there, we must have input from students and others in an environment that is safe for the expression of viewpoints.

With the increased communication of the past 24 hours, some speech (including the original post) has resulted in a call for disciplinary action against the speaker. Please know that this University takes threats very seriously and will not tolerate behavior that is in violation of our Student Code of Conduct or the laws of the State of Georgia. Know also that Georgia Southern University is a public institution and a government agency. As a result, Georgia Southern is not permitted to restrict speech that is protected by the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. All speech that is reported as a potential violation of the Code of Conduct is evaluated under these Constitutional standards and handled appropriately. In addition, the University is subject to laws regarding the privacy of student education records. Disciplinary records are protected items. As a result, the University generally is not able to share information regarding charges, outcome, or any other details of any individual student’s case without that student’s permission.

As a collective group, this institution has seen triumph, tragedy, and great change in just the past few years. This University is a family that has celebrated together, cried together, and joined together in anticipation of great things to come. When even one member of our community feels marginalized, we should all be concerned.

Today, we are facing an issue that seems challenging at best and insurmountable at worst. We are threatened with division. We are jeopardized by conduct that belies the very values we have set for ourselves. As we struggle to grow and change in a positive direction, I call upon all of you to do the following things: listen to each other, respect each other, and treat each other with dignity and concern. This is my personal commitment as well. If we are able to rise to this challenge, I am confident that we will move forward toward a place where each student is able to learn and thrive in a safe, diverse, and inclusive environment.

Respectfully,

Jean E. Bartels, PhD, RN
Interim President
Georgia Southern University"

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