ALBANY, GA (WALB) - Hundreds of Albany State University students took a stand against the new mission statement Friday, which left out any reference to ASU as one of the country's Historically Black Colleges and Universities.
The new mission statement came after Georgia's Board of Regents approved combining Albany State University with Darton State College.
As Dr. Art Dunning, the new president of the combined Albany State and Darton College took the podium, hundreds of students respectfully stood up in unison and walked out as he continued to speak.
The students left HPER Gymnasium and walked over to Orene Hall on campus.
The students held signs, while donned in all black clothing as a sign of solidarity. They expressed their opposition to the new mission statement, which was unanimously approved by the Board of Regents this week.
"I actually heard the new mission yesterday and when I heard the person reading it I was waiting to hear Historical Black College and when I didn't, I tilt my head and was like, okay, where is it?" said ASU Junior Imeisha Hill.
Dr. Dunning addressed the students late Friday to answer their questions. He told the remaining crowd at Friday's Honor Program that he welcomed the students' protest and respected their passion on the subject.
While some were holding signs, the sea of students marched together and protested the new mission statement.
The students were hopeful their solidarity would be noticed by university leadership.
"I believe they see the power and impact we have on ASU and what we are really trying to do and they should respect it," said student Marvin Daniels.
The Board of Regents unanimously approved the mission statement for the new Albany State University on Wednesday. It doesn't expressly mention ASU's legacy and previous mission of serving black students.
In the new mission statement, there is no mention of the new university expressively having HBCU status, rather talking about "historical roots" and stating "ASU respects and builds on the historical roots of its institutional predecessors with its commitment to access and a strong liberal arts heritage that respects diversity in all its forms and gives all students the foundation they need to succeed."
Old University Mission:
New Mission Statement for Consolidated Institution:
The students gathered in a circle of unity around the grave site of ASU's first president, Joseph Winthrop Holley.
The grave site was a meaningful stop during their march.
"Joseph Winthrop Holley, he couldn't get Darton State because that is where he wanted ASU to be, and they gave us the flood area, I feel like there is a lot of history and you can't forget about that history," said ASU Senior and CAM president Sean Whorton.
For the students and even some parents and alums who were on campus for the Honor's Day festivities, HBCU is an essential badge marking the school's rich history, which should remain in the mission statement.
"We have a lot of negativity, a lot of negative vices of the situation, and I feel we should have spoken up earlier, but now is the time to really speak up and be about action," said Sean Whorton.
ASU President Dr. Art Dunning met with students late Friday afternoon outside the student center.
Dr. Dunning's opening statement lasted a little over five minutes. For the next hour, Dr. Dunning was bombarded with questions from students who said they would like to see HBCU somewhere in the statement.
Dr. Dunning drove home a few points. For one, he guaranteed Albany State is and will always be an HBCU. The mission statement didn't change that.
Dr. Dunning also modeled the new statement after seven of the top 20 HBCUs, which also do not make mention of their HBCU status. He also said the statement can only be so long, but students responded by saying that four words weren't too much to ask.
A student leader at the event said that the student body president shared a proposed revised mission statement with university leaders, which did have the HBCU included.
The consolidated school will retain the name of Albany State University, and have nearly 9,000 students.