Albany State University Associate Professor Racquel Henry urges students to honor the past at a rally Thursday at the ASU Student Center. The rally’s goal was to prod the Georgia Board of Regents into approving 38 honorary degrees for former ASU students who were expelled in 1961 for demonstrations during the early days of the civil rights movement.
ALBANY -- Albany State University students held a rally at the university's student center Thursday to urge the University System of Georgia Board of Regents to approve honorary degrees for 38 former ASU students who were expelled in 1961 for taking part in civil rights protests.
The rally was called after the board had agreed to hear ASU's request at its regularly scheduled meeting next week, but suddenly reversed course and removed the request from the meeting agenda.
"When justice is delayed, justice is denied," ASU Student Government Association President Clarence Washington said. "We are here to send a message to the Board of Regents, that if the board doesn't follow through on their promise, then this will not be the last time they will hear about this issue.
"We just learned yesterday that we had been removed from the Board of Regents' agenda, and we still have no explanation as to why. We want to ask the board for consideration of honorary degrees for the students who were expelled for taking part in civil rights demonstrations."
ASU Assistant Professor Racquel L. Henry then spoke to the crowd, telling the students that their presence would have pleased their predecessors.
"This sight would warm their hearts and bring them to tears," Henry said, looking at the students. "Always remember that the privileges you enjoy now were paid for in the past. How do you protest and speak to power if you don't remember the past?"
Regents spokesman John Millsaps on Wednesday acknowledged that the ASU request was on the agenda but had been 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."