Savannah State band students protest university over alleged unfair stipend

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - A group of Savannah State University band students protested against the university on Wednesday.

Students tell WTOC they're protesting unfair stipend payments. The band students say they're owed the stipend and can't pay some of their school fees without the money.

If student musicians are talented enough to join the ranks, they receive a paycheck. The dollar amount on that check depends on their leadership role in the band and the experience they bring to the table, and that money can go toward anything from their meal plan to tuition.

Each student signs contracts accepting their role with the band and accepting the school's money. But access to those contracts is one of the issues students are bringing up.

"We've had issues with contracts as well. Contracts have been lost, contracts have been kept away from us," said Ashling Dawkins, a Savannah State student and band member.

A Savannah State University representative is looking into this claim for us, along with where the money used to fund the paychecks for the band students comes from and if that fund has gotten smaller.

"There's a student in the band right now who, last semester he was receiving $2,500 on his scholarship. Now they're only allocating him $1,250," said Dawkins.

At Wednesday's demonstration on campus, university leaders did come out of the administration building to talk to the students about the concerns over the funds.

"The president's chief of staff is here. And he's going to be trying to take care of as quickly as possible," said SSU Vice President of Student Affairs Dr. F. Carl Walton.

University reps are also working to open lines of communication between staff and students.

"I certainly will create an environment where you can be heard," said Walton.

So again, we've heard from the students that some of their big issues are contract transparency and the amount of money they now receive to be in the marching band, claiming it's not enough and could cost them their college careers since some depend on that money as financial aid.

A meeting will happen between students and staff at some point soon.

Some questions the university is working on for us are how much money is set aside for the marching band, where does that money come from and how accessible are the contracts signed by each student.

We'll keep you, the taxpayer, informed when we get those answers.

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