At 4 p.m. Monday, April 17, student leaders led a peaceful protest on campus regarding changes the university will be making soon that directly affect students. Savannah State University Student Government Association President Kendall Walker and Willie Walker, a senior, organized the protest.
Mr. Savannah State University Rakeeb Akande said the protest was an effort to express students' frustrations with the lack of transparency regarding changes that will affect the university. These changes include moving spring commencement to a smaller venue, the decision to move from Division I to Division II sports and the merger between Georgia Southern University and Armstrong State University.
On Wednesday, April 12, student athletes were informed in a meeting in Tiger Arena by Athletic Director Sterling Steward that the program would be moving down to Division II.
“It’s my hope that this protest will make everyone aware how these changes to athletics can hurt the university more than it can help in the long run. SSU is the only public HBCU in the state of Georgia with a Division I athletic program," Akande said.
"This past season for the first time ever, the football team won three Division I games. Benefits like that are what made my teammates and I want to come to Savannah State. Making this transition will likely impact high school athletes interest in attending the school," said David Handler, junior quarterback of the university football team.
New changes will directly affect enrollment due to the University losing its advantage as the only public HBCU in the state of Georgia with a Division I athletic program.
This positioned SSU to be the state's premiere HBCU versus the nearby Albany State and Fort Valley State University. Moving the program down takes away from the university’s historical value.
Changes will result in Georgia Southern becoming the only university in Savannah and the surrounding areas that offer a Division I athletic program.
In addition to SSU losing some of its most competitive majors once the merger of Armstrong State and Georgia Southern University takes place. Georgia Southern will offer most degree programs that Savannah State offers, making the new university a larger and more resourceful one.
This could drastically affect student enrollment rate, less students, could mean less income for the university.
Last major student concern are the new changes of the Spring Commencement ceremony. Savannah State has decided to have the spring 2017 Commencement in Tiger Arena this year. Graduates are allowed only 8 tickets each for loved ones to attend.
Kendall Walker said, “While it is proposed that this new protocol is for preventative measures of in climate weather. There is no documentation for rain during the spring commencement at Savannah State University. In letting this happen, so many people with not be able to see their loved ones graduate on this special day.
"Furthermore, this takes away the opportunity for the community to attend the graduation ceremony. Possibly damaging relationships in the city of Savannah that have been diligently developed by students over the past few years," he said.