Protests in the 1960s.
If you didn’t live through them, you’ve definitely heard all about them.
Whether it was protests involving the civil rights movement, the anti-Vietnam War movement, the women’s movement, the gay rights movement or the environmental movement, college students played an extremely important role regarding social change in the 1960s.
Supporters of these movements weren’t afraid to question traditional practices and demand change.
Such questioning inspired college students to begin organizing protests to fight against injustice for all people.
As protesters in the 1960s displayed their demands through public marches, picketing and sit-ins, they changed public policies at the local, state, and federal levels.
When people look back at the 1960s, many believe college students these days have lost that same passion to change the world.
Students at Paine College this week proved that theory wrong.
More than 300 Paine College students, faculty and alumni called for immediate change.
They united together to boycott the Founders’ Day Convocation ceremony this week and decided to show their growing concern over the possibility of the college losing its accreditation by holding a peaceful protested outside of the university’s chapel.
Wearing all black, the students quietly stood outside the chapel during the Founders’ Day event for approximately two hours until the Board of Trustees emerged from the chapel.
At that point, the students and faculty gathered outside and began signing the Paine College hymn.
It was a powerful moment that the Board of Trustees should never forget.
The students and faculty were demanding that their voices be heard.
They realize if the Board of Trustees members don’t change the course of the university, there will no longer be a Paine College.
Earlier this year, Paine College was placed on probation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges after the school was found to be in violation of several standards including fiscal stability, control of finances and the handling of federal student financial aid programs.
If Paine College doesn’t correct its violations by next June, the private university’s accreditation could be revoked.
Such an action usually means the death of a college.
And that would truly be a shame for not only the university, but for all of Augusta.
Founded in 1882 as a joint effort between the Colored Methodist Episcopal Church in America and the Methodist Episcopal Church, Paine College was originally created to provide elementary and secondary education for African-Americans.
According to the university’s website, classes began at 10th and Broad Street in 1884 and Paine was relocated two years later to its current location on 15th Street, which was then a farm outside of town.
Since there were weren’t any public schools for African-Americans in Augusta at that time, Paine functioned as a secondary school as well until 1945, when the first public high school for blacks was opened.
That history shouldn’t just end.
And hopefully the Board of Trustees members understand that fact.
At least the board appears to be finally listening to the faculty and students by agreeing to reinstate the recently ousted acting President Samuel Sullivan.
This, along with last month’s resignation of former President George Bradley and the removal of his wife, Tina Marshall-Bradley, as the associate vice president of academic affairs this month, shows that Paine College might have a fighting chance.
Students and alumni should also be commended for creating the website, thepaineproject.net, which demanded the ouster of Bradley and his administration from Paine College earlier this year.
“Since the start of his selection as the 14th President of Paine College, George C. Bradley, as President, and his wife, Tina Marshall Bradley, as Associate Vice President of Academic Affairs, have presided over Paine College in a manner that has brought unprecedented mismanagement to the college’s financial and fiscal affairs, and intimidation and threats to faculty, staff, and students,” The Paine Project website stated. “The Bradley administration ushered in a downgrade of the College’s status with the school’s accrediting agency, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) with the announcement that the school will now be placed on probation.”
For the past year, some students and faculty have been trying to save their school before it loses its accreditation and may have to close its doors.
Paine College students are taking a page from the 1960s by questioning traditional practices and demanding change.
They are not only saving the college’s history, they’re ensuring its future.
Right on, Paine College students. Sock it to ‘em.