Florida State students rally for affirmative action, concerned over Supreme Court case
Tallahassee, FL – A crowd of students rallied near the administration building on the Florida State University (FSU) campus, Dec. 3 in support of affirmative action and to demand an end to the racist exclusion of African American students. Protesters held a banner reading, “Increase Black enrollment now! FSU students demand affirmative action!” They held signs reading, “Black education matters,” and “End racism on campus.”
The rally was part of the National Day to Demand Affirmative Action called by the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). This national day of action was created in response to the Supreme Court’s decision to take a second look at the Fisher v. University of Texas case, which deals with the legality of the affirmative action program used in the University of Texas system. The previous ruling, which favored the university, did not challenge the legality of affirmative action. If the court changes its decision, it will affect the fate of affirmative action programs in colleges and universities nationwide. The end of affirmative action programs will severely hurt African American students’ ability to be admitted to colleges and universities.
Regina Joseph, an organizer with SDS, opened the event with a brief explanation of the court case. She put forward three demands for the FSU administration: reinstate affirmative action, stop legacy preferences, and drop SAT/ACT testing requirements for admissions. Legacy preferences allow the children of wealthy and privileged graduates to attend the university, with the hope that generous donations will follow.
“The very foundation of this university needs to change. We're going to make that difference, and we're going to be organized, and we're going to increase Black enrollment, because we have the people, and we have the research and the knowledge to actually do what we need to do,” said Joseph.
Others spoke about issues faced by African American students nationwide as well as the struggles of African American students at Florida State. At FSU the freshman class consists of 7% African American students, compared to 12.8% in 1999. At the same time the rates of high school graduation for African American students is steadily increasing.
“I was very shocked to see it drop so dramatically,” said FSU student Roderick Pearson, “When I first enrolled here I thought it would be more diverse than what it is now.”
Protesters also directly addressed FSU administrators who were observing the rally alongside the police. They demanded that the FSU administration end discrimination against African American students. The rally concluded with a call to action for students to get organized and to help continue the fight against racism on campus.
“Right now on campus we have one major task, we need to get organized,” said Zachary Schultz, an organizer with SDS, “You can see the group of people gathered here today. It isn’t enough, we need to get organized.”
Afterwards the students marched across campus chanting, “Black education matters” and “When Black students are under attack, what do we do? Stand up fight back!” They passed out pamphlets with information about the racist admissions policies at FSU and the dropping rates of African American enrollment.