Students and staff oppose Sonny Perdue as potential USG Chancellor

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On Jan. 25, Board of Regents Chairman Sachin Shailendra declared the national search for the next University System of Georgia (USG) chancellor, following the retirement of the former USG Chancellor, Steve Wrigley.

According to an article posted by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, there is a controversy among students in higher education regarding the potential appointment of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue as USG chancellor.

Perdue held his position as the 31st U.S. Secretary of Agriculture for nearly four years under Donald Trump’s presidency. Perdue was Georgia’s 81st governor from 2003 to 2011.

Many students have already started to resist and fight against the consideration of Perdue as  USG’s next chancellor. A student-led coalition called Students Against Sonny created a petition urging students to sign in opposition to Perdue’s election.

One student, in particular, decided to use his platform to spread the word about this pressing matter regarding his peers’ education and his own. 

Georgia State senior and political science major Spencer Bivins took a step back from his music career to focus more on higher education politics. When he got word of Perdue’s consideration, he went into overdrive with other students to oppose the decision.

“A lot of students come to these schools in Georgia to have a high quality and affordable education that can move us into a better life,” Bivins said. “The decision that the Board of Regents and the University System of Georgia decides ultimately affects us, students, directly.”

To be appointed as the chancellor for higher education is an honor and privilege not given to most individuals. It is a role that requires one to be a leader and dedicate themselves to promoting quality higher education for students.

“Perdue being in this role would not be good for students, and the priority for him would not be about the students that go to these schools every year,” Bivins said. “In this position as chancellor, you have to have someone who not only has an actual background in education but someone who will put students first.” 

Those involved in the coalition include both students and staff. Members feel as if Perdue is underqualified and unfit for the position as chancellor. They base their convictions upon his lack of history in higher education and his long track record of making public education less accessible during the Great Recession.

Georgia State staff member Shelby Swan graduated from Kennesaw State University in 2016 but still feels greatly affected and passionate about this matter and the future of higher education.

“I went to school on the HOPE Scholarship and financial aid, so this is a really important issue to me,” Swan said. “Our number one demand is that this [is] a transparent process that includes the oversight and input of students, faculty and staff.”

Most students simply ask for transparency and that the new leadership prioritizes higher education for all students across Georgia. With Wringley’s retirement, many are urging The Board of Regents to decide based on quality rather than political favor.

“At the end of the day, students’ tuition and fees pay to keep USG and BOR in the state of Georgia,” Swan said. “So why wouldn’t we listen and elevate the voices of those who matter most in this process and make sure that they’re considered in this election?”