When Meagan Gautier learned about some big changes coming to the Southern University system, she got busy.
“I don’t think they were going to tell us, but we found out,” she says. “That’s why we’re here. We showed up to show them that we do know what’s going on and that we’re not going to let it happen.”
Gautier is talking about House Bill 927. The proposed legislation would eliminate the Southern University system. Instead, the schools within that system would merge with the University of Louisiana system. Lawmakers believe the merge would help fix financial and academic problems that have plagued the SU system for years.
When Gautier found out, she and her friends spent the entire weekend rallyying support against the bill.
“The thing is we found out,” says SU freshman Danielle Richard. “We got it out there and we have people to support us and that’s all that matters right now.”
In a single weekend, the girls were able to stir up the interest of more than 80 SU students and alumni. On day one of the legislative session, they showed up to shut down HB 927.
“We filled up the whole balcony,” Gautier giggles.
They want lawmakers to know how they feel about the bill.
“I just feel like it’s not fair to put us in a new system when this is the school I joined,” says Shamaya Stewart, president of the Southern University College Democrats. “If I had wanted to be part of UL, I would have joined UL.”
They hope system leaders will taken another stab at the situation.
“Before we push ourselves over to another system, we should first try to handle our own problems,” Gautier suggests.
Students say they’ll do their part too. They refuse to give up their system without a fight.
“We are Southern University. That’s a brand. That’s a trademark,” Gautier exclaims. “We want to keep our school the way it is.”