Faculty and graduates of Savannah State University have written letters of concern to leaders of the University of Georgia System about school president Cheryl Davenport Dozier. The stakeholders say that Dozier, who was appointed president in 2011 after serving as interim president and associate provost for institutional diversity at the University of Georgia, has not been proactive on solving issues of campus crime, financial management or strained relations with faculty and staff.
In most instances, faculty and alumni rallying against a president would create buzz about a possible removal, especially for a public HBCU which in most states, is an obstacle to large predominantly white institutions recruiting more black students and seeking land expansion.
Georgia is a little different from most HBCU states. In the last three years, two of its three public HBCUs have been placed in the geographic footprint of consolidated predominantly white institutions. Fort Valley State University and Savannah State both are now car rides away from campuses that have or will see enrollment gains, primarily among minority students.
Since the 2013 consolidation of Macon State College and Middle Georgia College, Middle Georgia State has gained university status and has increased enrollment for the first time since 2013. African American student enrollment has been stable at 34% between 2013-2016.
At FVSU, total enrollment has declined from 3,180 students in 2013 to 2,679 in 2016, and its black student population percentage has fallen from 96% to 90% over the same period. Last fall, the University System of Georgia attempted to falsely depict enrollment data from the consolidated Albany State University, comparing year-to-year data of a combined school with data from a single institution the year prior.
Since 2011, Fort Valley State has had three permanent presidential appointees and Albany State University is looking for its third permanent president over the same period.
Savannah State will face similar challenges. Instead of the 25 miles of duplicative institutional distance between FVSU and Middle Georgia, it is only nine miles away from its newly consolidated neighbor in Georgia Southern University’s Armstrong campus. While it has had stability in leadership for the past seven years, enrollment and resource declines will soon hit the airwaves and front pages of newspapers.
There’s no reason for the USG to try and force Dr. Dozier out now over complaints about campus culture and crime. If the recent history of the USG’s strategy is any indicator, there will be plenty of time for system leaders to celebrate her retirement in less than a year or so – right about when Georgia Southern begins to emerge as the next great hope for black students in Georgia public higher education.
With Kente Ceremonies and all:
The Georgia Southern Armstrong Campus in Savannah will hold a Lavender Graduation to celebrate the commencement of LGBTQ+ students. During the event, participants will enjoy refreshments, a guest speaker and the presentation of lavender graduation cords and tassels. The event, hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, will take place at noon in the Ogeechee Theatre in the Student Union.
The Kente Ceremony and the Latino Ceremony will also be held on the Armstrong Campus. Participants in the Kente Ceremony will receive the Kente stole and participants in the Latino Ceremony will receive the Sarape stole. The events, hosted by the Office of Multicultural Affairs, will take place at 3 p.m. and 7 p.m., respectively, in the Ogeechee Theatre in the Student Union.
This takeover, or versions of the same is happening all to HBCUs all over the south, in far more covert ways. But its not suprising to see such blantant execution from a state that values tradition unlike any other, including boxing black people and institutions out of opportunities to flourish in our own communities on our own terms.