Sponsor of controversial legislation to appear Thursday in Albany

Albany businessman Gilbert Udoto discusses a planned Thursday meeting about legislation that could affect Albany State University.

ALBANY – Albany State University supporters will hear on Thursday from the state senator who sponsored legislation that would separate the university and two sister historically black institutions from the University System of Georgia.

State Sen. Lester Jackson, D-Savannah, is scheduled to appear at the Save Our HBCU meeting, which is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Union Missionary Baptist Church in Albany.

“I think the most important thing is we have set a date and a time and a dialogue for Sen. Jackson to come see Albany and explain his views and what he thinks the bill will do for the three (potentially impacted) historically black colleges and universities,” Albany City Commissioner Jon Howard, who has led efforts to block Jackson’s proposed legislation, said.

Other impacted public HBCUs are Savannah and Fort Valley state universities.

Howard said he would like to hear “what his bill would likely do to the HBCUs.” The Albany commissioner said he would like Jackson to announce he is no longer supporting the legislation, but admitted that is unlikely.

Howard said he is concerned that under Senate Bill 278 the governor would appoint 11 of 19 members of a board that would take over administration of ASU, Fort Valley and Savannah State.

Howard said he also has concerns over whether the three universities spun off would receive the same funding they do as part of the University System of Georgia.

Petitions are circulating in the community and on campus, Howard said, and students, alumni and community leaders are set to attend Thursday’s meeting, one of several hosted by Howard since state Sen. Freddie Powell Sims publicly announced Jackson’s plan.

Gilgert Udoto, also an ASU alumnus, said it was heartening to see the support of the Board of Regents at last week’s investiture ceremony for ASU President Marion Fedrick. The ceremony marks the first year of a university president’s tenure.

Howard and Udoto have encouraged the business community and the community at large to support ASU and its mission.

“If we have their support, we as a community have to show the board of regents we’re interested in our school,” Udoto said. “If we’re interested in our school, we have to show it by giving it our support.

“We want the churches, we want businesses, we want everybody to support this institution.”

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