Protesting students call for Freeman's resignation

Photo by Avan Clark

Photo by Avan Clark

ALBANY -- Chanting "Freeman Must Go," and holding up signs rebuking their leader, Albany State University students said Wednesday they are tired of unfulfilled promises and what they said was unethical behavior coming from the president's office.

Meanwhile, fourth-year President Everette Freeman postponed a trip to Atlanta Wednesday to deal with the disgruntled students -- who numbered roughly 50 -- in an attempt to address concerns they say remain unresolved since Freeman took office.

Blair Caffey, a senior business marketing major, joined a small contingent of students chanting outside of Freeman's office in sub-freezing temperatures Wednesday morning.

"We're tired of being lied to," Caffey said. "We've been shouting and screaming for the past two years. We don't want this man here."

Caffey pointed to several ongoing issues on campus that have stoked some of the outrage against Freeman. These include the ongoing quest for funding of a Ray Charles Fine Arts building that was promised to students years ago and a general lack of involvement in student leadership and activities across campus.

Most recently, students were incensed when a popular university administrator, Vice President of Student Affairs Beverly Robinson, was demoted to associate vice president after she reportedly refused to terminate another employee.

Robinson, who was hired last February, was instrumental in ASU being able to sign famous child TV journalist Damon Weaver to a full-ride scholarship to Albany State this summer. Weaver interviewed President Obama in the fall.

Robinson resigned Monday rather than accept the demotion.

"That was just the straw that broke the camel's back," Caffey said.

Freeman, who was speaking with some of the students outside his office before addressing the complete group inside the university's ACAD auditorium, said he has no plans of relinquishing control of his campus.

"I don't quit. That's not what presidents and winners do," he said to reporters. "I'm just going to have to do a better job of interacting with the students and juggling my other responsibilities. The students are here in support of their First Amendment rights."

As for Robinson's status, Freeman said he couldn't speak concerning personnel issues, but he did confirm that she was no longer employed by the university.

In an e-mail to the student body Tuesday, Freeman said that the university would be re-evaluating its organizational structure to continue moving forward with its strategic plan.

He wrote, "Several units are being realigned and personnel positions have been reassigned. One of the changes to result from this reevaluation was my request last Tuesday that Dr. Beverly Robinson assume the role of Associate Vice President of Student Affairs. This morning I was advised by Dr. Robinson that she will be ending her tenure with Albany State University immediately. Please join me in wishing Dr. Robinson well in her future endeavors."

During the discussion with the ASU president, a band of students questioned Freeman's morals.

"What about liars?" shouted one student from the crowd. "Can you look at us and tell us you have never lied?"

In response to questions from the students about the demotion and resignation of Robinson, Freeman said he was unsure how to react.

"I don't know how to respond to protests about someone quitting," he said.

A small group of students quickly exited the ACAD auditorium soon after Freeman began his remarks.

"I would have liked them to stay," he said of the students who left during the disucussion. "I'm always open to suggestions, and I hope they will be willing to contact me about what we can do to help each other. I am an old man, and I admit I don't often know how to communicate effectively to the younger generation. This is what college is about; it's a discussion."

A band of student-athletes also addressed Freeman during his discussion at the ACAD Auditorium, asking for his help to keep a book store open and to fully fund what they said was a less-than-adequate transportation system to games, which some said left them having to car pool.

Herald reporters Ricki Barker and Ethan Fowler contributed to this report.