On Feb. 21, the day after a heated faculty senate debate, students gathered outside the Student Center to voice their frustrations with KSU administrators. The gathering was called “the Blackout”. Those at the demonstration met at 11 a.m. wearing black and holding signs saying “This is our HBCU” and “KSU is Woke”. Meant as a demand for student input, students stated problems they dealt with and spoke on feeling left out of the conversation when decisions are made. One of the more vocal was senior and SGA senator Navaar Cunningham. “We called it a blackout not to just symbolize the color we wore today, but to really symbolize solidarity on standing together.”
The main theme of the event was the perceived lack of student involvement in the function of the university. “We feel like a lot of things are over our heads with the higher-ups,” said Christopher Nelson, a senior exercise science major. “There are things being put in motion that we’re not being informed of and I feel as students we are obligated [to know].” This sense of exclusion has been showing itself throughout the tumultuous search process for a new university president.
The day before the “Blackout”, multiple SGA officers attended the faculty senate debate about whether to bring a vote of no-confidence in the Board of Regents before the full faculty. The student officers said they felt excluded and wanted a say in the choices of the university. After the faculty senate meeting, SGA held a Student Union meeting discussing the state of KSU.
This event was a continuation of those feelings. Students there believe demonstrations like these will get their voices heard by the faculty and administration. “I just hope they will at least respect us, listen to us and give us answers,” said freshman Raylen Tichenor. She felt if given the forum to voice concerns to faculty and staff, some of the problems on campus could be fixed. “At least show us that they cared and they want to try,” said Tichenor. Nelson echoed this sentiment, saying town hall meetings or gathering between the student body and faculty could lead to a better relationship.
Cunningham hopes the “Blackout” will bring more students, especially underclassmen, together in venting their concerns. “Demonstrations like this are basically demonstrations of unity,” he said. “Demonstrations of what can do if we all move as one.” He said this was not about the presidential search in particular, but the search was merely the “tipping point” for some students. He mentioned problems that occurred during the Sias and Burse administrations as providing the foundation for the frustrations students uttered at the gathering and labeled those years as a “loss of culture” for KSU. “We just want to make sure we do what we can to bring that [culture] back and if we have to make a little noise to do it then so be it.” Whether or not the faculty or administration heard the noise is to be determined.