It’s time for Georgia State to have its first Black president

On Sept. 15, Georgia State University President Mark Becker announced that he would be leaving his position after the 2020-21 school year. The sudden announcement comes as the university tries to find its new normal during the pandemic.

 Since 2009, and especially in the last year, Becker has made it a point to increase the university administration’s diversity. This all came to a head in late July.

 On July 27, Becker announced significant actions the university would take to increase diversity in response to the Student Government Association and The Signal’s criticisms of the university’s lack of diversity despite having a student population composed predominantly of people of color. 

 The actions ranged from the creation of the Office of Institutional Diversity, Equity and Inclusion to establishing a new scholarship in honor of the women who fought to desegregate the university. I hope that he continues to fight the good fight until he leaves.

 But once he does, the next president will have to either pick up where he left off or end the program, which presents  Georgia State and the University System of Georgia, whose board members will select the next president, with an opportunity to make history.

 Every president and dean of Georgia State since 1913 have been white men. While that may have worked before the 1960s and 70s, it’s shocking that we can still have this situation in the 21st century.

 “I’m actually surprised to hear that [Becker is] leaving. [President Patton, Becker’s predecessor] was [president] for so long, I just expected him to be as well,” Georgia State alum, Kevin Jones, said. “Hopefully, the next president builds on the good he did. And honestly, hopefully, they pick somebody Black or Latino, someone who understands … how hard it is being a person of color in America.” 

 And he’s right. Becker has done a lot of good for the university by increasing graduation rates, transforming downtown Atlanta, preserving history and more. 

 Becker was one of, if not the greatest, presidents in Georgia State’s history. Becker has defined himself as one of the greatest modern university presidents.

 But that doesn’t negate that there is still lots of work to be done, especially diversity. Who would be better to do it than someone who is Black? 

 Shaking the boat and placing a Black person, especially a Black woman, into the university’s highest position would truly make a STATEment. Being the first Black president and the first female president would again make Georgia State a global leader.

 If Georgia State and the University System of Georgia were genuinely committed to diversity, they would commit to showcasing it in its leadership. If they were genuinely committed to its students, they would hire someone who looks like most of them, someone from their communities. 

 Here is a prime opportunity to make history, and hopefully, they make the most of it.