Letter that demands change in operation — Georgia State faculty stands with BLM

A group of faculty members at Georgia State took a stand against racial discrimination and the unjust killings of Black lives by sending a letter to Georgia State University President Mark Becker. 

On June 10, a letter was sent with a diverse signatory of more than 220 minority faculty members and alumni. Each signature represents an advocate for change at the institution as the letter reflects the concerns and expectations of the Black faculty. 

Georgia State has received many accolades for having a large number of Black students, but according to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 75% of students are non-white, compared to 68% of faculty members who are white. The disproportionate lack of diversity within Georgia State’s faculty was one catalyst for the letter. 

“We are writing this letter as members of the Black community and as faculty members at Georgia State,” the letter states.

It goes on to express sympathies for Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other Black victims of racism and police brutality. The letter then acknowledges Georgia State’s past with race relations and the three Black women who fought to desegregate the university in 1959.

Tanya Washington, professor of law at Georgia State, helped draft the letter and gather up signatures. 

“There were multiple drafts because once the first draft was written and circulated to a group of faculty that was working on it, we went through editing. There was substantial input from the community,” she said.

In light of the death of Ahmaud Arbery, Becker and Provost Wendy Hensel formed a task force to promote racial equality. Many resources were added to the Office of Provost website at the start of this year, and more change is being enacted.

Along with the Racial Equality Task Force formed on June 9, the letter was sent a day after to ensure that the Georgia State community lives up to its motto: “wisdom, justice and moderation”.

The letter includes demands such as:

  • Memorialize the Black women who fought to end Georgia State’s racially discriminatory admissions policies (e.g., erect statues or a permanent marker and name a scholarship, fellowship, classroom or building after them).
  • End Georgia State’s involvement with the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange (GILEE) program, which puts Black people and communities at greater risk of experiencing police violence in Georgia.

The GILEE program has been challenged by human rights advocates at Georgia State and in Atlanta. Faculty urged Becker to hold a conversation with “more transparency” regarding Georgia State’s perspective on policing and involvement with the program. 

On August 5, the Black faculty had a meeting with the president to discuss the demands and concerns presented in the letter. 

Regarding the GILEE program, Becker suggested that the individuals that claim the program promotes violence against Black people “need to come forward with evidence.”

“I’m absolutely opposed to systemic racism and issues of policing that have to do with systemic racism or violence against black people,” Becker said. “As per GILEE … allegations have been made, but nobody has brought forward any evidence to support that the program is promoting violence against Black people or against any other group of people.”

Becker addressed other concerns in the hour-long meeting, but there is still more to be done.

“The meeting, to be clear, [was] a next step; it [was] not the ultimate goal,” Washington said