Tuskegee Protest Underway
Tuskegee University students have issued a demand to the school’s Board of Trustees to fire newly- appointed President Brian Johnson. Johnson has been on the job for less than a year. He was selected by the Tuskegee Board of Trustees at the behest of Board Chairman General (Ret.) Charles Williams.
Around 9:00 o’clock a.m., Friday, student leaders began to assemble at the iconic Booker T. Washington monument at the center of the Tuskegee campus. The monument is located across from the Kellogg Hotel & Conference Center, which has hosted the Board of Trustees annual meeting since Wednesday of this week.
The students demand that Johnson be fired before the close of business Friday and that his contract not be renewed. Additionally, the students demand that the next president be a Tuskegee alumnus.
According to student leaders, they do not feel that Johnson has served the interest of the university well and their actions is a show of “no confidence” in his leadership.
Johnson was elected by the Board in late May of last year. He began his tenure in July to coincide with the day that Booker T. Washington first arrived on campus to begin the first day of classes at the Tuskegee Normal and Industrial School in 1881.
Since assuming his duties, Johnson has drawn the ire of the local community after he ordered the campus police to ban a local pastor, Harold H. Lusk, Sr., who had come onto campus to attend a Sunday night lecture presented by Johnson. The Board eventually ordered Johnson to rescind the ban on Lusk.
Also, the Tuskegee community felt alienated from the university for the first time in its history. Local government officials felt snubbed by Johnson when they learned that he had sent a letter to government officials in Montgomery, Alabama inviting them to attend a basketball game in his suite. He did not invite any Tuskegee officials to join him for a game in his suite.
Local community leaders have criticized him for not putting his children in the Macon County public schools, opting instead to enroll his children in schools in Auburn.
At its October Board meeting, Johnson was instructed to develop a dialogue with State Representative Pebblin Warren from Tuskegee. Warren is also a graduate of Tuskegee. She is the wife of the then Sheriff of Macon County. Johnson had been on campus since July, but did not meet Rep. Warren or had any idea that there was a Tuskegee Trustee within two miles of the university until the October 2014 Board meeting.
The student protesters have garnered the support of alumni and last year’s student leader, Gabriel Smith. He drove over from Auburn to support his former classmates.
Reminiscent of the student protest of 1968, an electronic communication between student protesters is calling for the students to shut down the Kellogg Center at 3:30 pm this afternoon. The 1968 protest locked Board members up in Dorothy Hall, the forerunner of the Kellogg Center. This protest resulted in the university calling in the National Guard and expelling every students enrolled in the school. The students were only allowed to return to the school under the protection of a federal court order.
At one point in the day, Floyd Griffin, a Board member from Milledgeville, Georgia came out to speak with the students. The students told him they were concerned about the safety of the campus at night and that they wanted properly heated and ventilated dormitories. They cited Johnson as being too arrogant and out of touch with the student community.
Additionally, we have received reports that two Montgomery television stations have arrived at the entrance of the campus, but have been denied access and are unable to speak with the students.
UPDATES TO FOLLOW.
Harold Michael Harvey, is the author of the legal thriller “Paper Puzzle,” and “Justice in the Round: Essays on the American Jury System,” available at Amazon and at haroldmichaelharvey.com. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org