ALBANY, Ga. — Albany State University’s plan to award honorary degrees to 38 former students who were expelled from the school in 1961 during the beginning days of the Albany Movement hit a snag on Tuesday.
Forty students were expelled from ASU after taking part in protests and civil rights marches. The school located 38 of the students, 13 of whom had passed away.
According to ASU Student Government Association President Clarence Washington, the school was to seek approval next week during the Georgia Board of Regents’ meeting in Atlanta. But Washington said he learned Tuesday that the group had been removed from the Regents’ agenda.
“We just learned yesterday that we had been removed from the Board of Regents agenda, and we still have no explanation as to why,” Washington said. “We wanted to ask the board for consideration of honorary degrees for the students who were expelled for taking part in civil rights demonstrations.
“This is a major event for the University’s ‘Justice Delayed is Justice Denied' celebration.”
Regents spokesman John Millsaps acknowledged that the ASU request was on the agenda but then removed after several questions were raised about the honorary degrees.
“The Board of Regents has a policy in place in regard to the awarding of honorary degrees,” Millsaps said. “There are two problems with their request.”
Specifically, Millsaps pointed to section 3.8.4 in the Board of Regents’ Policy Manual regarding honorary degrees. That section reads: “Relatively few awards should be given. ... The recipient must be present to receive the degree.”
“In my 16 years at the Board of Regents, I have never seen a request for this many honorary degrees at one time,” Millsaps said. “I can’t give you a timeline, but I will say their request is still under review at this time.”
Another problem is that Albany State is now in a time crunch because it cannot confer the honorary degrees, which were planned as part of the university’s 50th anniversary of the Albany Movement celebrations, without the Regents’ approval.
Washington said that efforts are under way to get back on the Regents’ agenda, adding a protest/rally would be held at 11:15 this morning at ASU’s new student center amphitheater.