Savannah State University is the first public black institution in the state of Georgia. Originally named Georgia State Industrial College for Colored Youth, the name later changed to Savannah State College, then Savannah State University in 1996. The school was founded by the late president, Richard R. Wright. The school was built to empower and uplift African-Americans as they stride to get an education. However, some don’t believe the school is not living up to its original promise.
Chelsea Henry, a sophomore biology major, said, “In my opinion, Savannah State is like high school all over again. The students are always in drama, the food is never good, and the classes are way too easy. I have friends who go to schools like Hampton, Clark Atlanta, and even FAMU, and their school is more lit than ours.”
Some students are not happy with the school, some are even questioning why they attended. However, alumni say they believe the current students make some of the problems at the university.
“The school’s not the problem. It’s the students,” Bridget Johnson, who graduated in 2002, said. “My time at Savannah State was a positive experience. It opened a lot of doors for students who were not able to attend big universities. SSU gave students endless opportunities to be successful in their careers. Attending this as a small university, I got the full experience. I feel as a student, what a person puts in is what they will get out. Although Savannah is not a big university and may lack finances, this does not give students the right to bash the school’s name.”
She added, “If students have such negative feed on the school why didn’t they attend a bigger and better HBCU?”
Students say they hear some faculty members criticize the school.
Matthew Smith, a junior, said he blames the faculty and staff for not taking the initiative to further their own education about Savannah State.
“I had a professor who does not care about the school, its students or their education. All they want is a paycheck,” Smith said. “Yet, I can’t put all the blame on faculty, it’s the students’ fault as well. If students would actually take the time to research the school’s history, they might actually enjoy the school. But that’s the generation we live in.”
Smith said he believes the reason students are leaving Savannah State to attend other HBCUs is because there is a stigma that Savannah State is a low-quality school.
Professor of Africana Studies Jamal Toure is an alum of Savannah State. In his classes, Toure makes sure his students are aware of the history of political activism in the African-American community.
“My class is learning all Savannah State. I have my class (re-learn) the history of the school. I have the students include the figures and the impacts that have been made across the country,” Toure said.
“The main problem with people not attending or leaving Savannah is because they don’t know the significance of the school,” he said.
Toure has visited several HBCUs, and when he talks to the students about Savannah State, the students begin to realize the school has a lot to offer. Toure said Savannah State’s students shouldn’t look up to bigger HBCUs like Spelman, Morehouse, Hampton, or Howard as top schools.
If students know their history, they’ll begin to understand and appreciate the school more. “Savannah State is what a student makes it,” he said. “You see I believe Savannah State is true HBCU, our school has been a central force within Georgia.”