Georgia students protest Sonny Perdue's candidacy for statewide higher-ed leadership role

Georgia students and faculty are actively resisting former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue, a Republican, from being considered for a high-level administrative position in the state’s educational system.

Backlash put a temporary pause on the search new chancellor of the University of Georgia System this spring, with the ongoing search resuming last month.

Georgia college students are organizing to make sure that Sonny Perdue, the state’s former governor and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture under Donald Trump, does not get appointed to serve as the chancellor of the University System of Georgia.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reported in March that Perdue is being considered for the high-level position, which oversees the state’s public universities. That decision drove liberal students to protest against the former governor. 

The largest student group opposing Perdue’s selection, boasting 336 Instagram followers, dubbed itself “Students Against Sonny” and was founded roughly a month after news of Perdue’s possible appointment broke.

Students Against Sonny charges the former governor with, among other things, being unqualified for the position, threatening HBCUs and planning to abolish the HOPE scholarship, a scholarship offered to Georgia students who demonstrate financial need and meet a short list of requirements. The third claim comes despite Perdue having renewed the HOPE scholarship during his tenure as governor.

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The group created an online petition in opposition to Perdue’s appointment, which has since garnered just over 1500 signatures.

Two organizers of the protest movement appeared on a 46 minute long podcast hosted by humanities lecturers at Georgia Tech.  During the podcast interview, the student activists argued that Perdue is unfit to fill the role and implied that he is only being considered for the job due to his political connections. One of the organizers also described themselves as an “anarchist.”

Students Against Sonny did not respond to Campus Reform’s request for comment.

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accreditation agency responsible for Georgia’s public higher education institutions, warned officials of the potential consequences of selecting a candidate without “appropriate experience and qualifications” following the reports of Perdue’s consideration,” according to the AJC.

Matt Boedy, a professor at the University of North Georgia and president of Georgia’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, told Campus Reform that he believes “Perdue is not remotely qualified for the job” and “the Regents should choose someone with higher education experience and who wants to be an advocate for the faculty, staff, and students of the USG.”

[RELATED: UMN students demand Dem governor ‘drop the charges’ against arrested protesters]

Boedy also referred Campus Reform to a letter composed by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The letter, released April 26 in response to the AJC’s reporting, asserts that the accreditation of Georgia’s public universities could be threatened if an individual not inline with their “Principles of Accreditation” is appointed. USG Board of Regents Chairman Sachin Shailendra is reminded in the letter that his board must be independent of “undue influence by external persons or bodies” and that anyone selected for the Chancellorship must be appropriately credentialed. 

Much of the letter deals with the requirement of the board to remain politically neutral, suggesting that the SACS believes they may not have been when considering Perdue.

The Board of Regents suspended their search for a new chancellor six days after the letter was sent, though resumed the process on May 11 with the search firm previously heading the effort deciding not to continue.