On March 31 2011, students rallied in the courtyard at Georgia State University to protest against the cuts to the HOPE scholarship (HB-326), and the Board of Regents ruling banning of undocumented students from five public research universities in Georgia.
Students proceeded to march to the President Becker’s office to present the President a list of demands by GSPHE. After waiting for President Becker to exit his office, we read aloud to him the following letter:
To Dr. Becker
President of Georgia State University
We, as students of Georgia State University, hear by condemn the fact that you have not represented our best interests in the face of repeated tuition and fee hikes, layoffs, furloughs and cuts to academic departments. We understand that you do not set the tuition rates, and that your authority on these matters is limited; however, that does not absolve you from responsibility.
In the face of the most recent and egregious austerity measures, specifically HB-326, which no longer ensures full tuition coverage of students on the HOPE scholarship, as well as the decision of the Board of Regents to bar undocumented students from Georgia’s five research universities, you have remained silent. Regardless of your personal position on the matter, your silence—rather than granting you immunity—instead implicates you as one who supports these decisions.
As president of Georgia State University, you are entrusted with ensuring the quality of education of the student body, as well as maintaining the standard of diversity and global perspective for which Georgia State is renowned. Yet the recent decisions actively deny rather than promote diversity. For example, in Georgia, only 2.7% of African American students make a 1200 on their SAT’s and only 5.4% of students whose families make less than $40,000 a year meet the new SAT requirements. These are precisely the students who bring diversity to our campus, and these are the students who desperately need full tuition coverage the most. HB-326 is a direct assault of the fundamental right of all people to receive an education, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
In addition to the elimination of the HOPE scholarship’s availability for those who need it most, the barring of undocumented students represents a gross violation of the human rights in Georgia. This decision targets a specific group of people, based on their citizenship status and denies them the ability to improve their lives. These students are precisely the ones that Georgia State should learn from. Allowing them to be targeted as scapegoats for an economic crisis they have neither created nor contributed to is abhorrent to say the least.
Therefore, we demand that you make a formal public statement, condemning both HB-326 as well as the ruling by the Board of Regents barring undocumented students, calling for alternative measures to austerity to be taken as well as the immediate lifting of the ban.
The very history of Georgia stands as a reminder that there is an ethical imperative to publicly criticize these decisions by the Board of Regents and the Georgia legislature. While the very people who helped to create this economic crisis are left untouched, our communities’ very means of our survival are being cut from under us. We refuse to pay for a crisis that we did not create. In these difficult times, we must ensure that education is seen not as a privilege but as a fundamental human right.
Georgia Students for Public Higher Education