Some Valdosta State students unhappy Gov. Kemp is delivering commencement speech

Credit: Georgia Secretary of State Office
Credit: Georgia Secretary of State Office(WCTV)
Published: May. 2, 2019 at 4:41 PM EDT
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By: Emma Wheeler | WCTV Eyewitness News

May 2, 2019

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WCTV) -- Valdosta State University seniors are taking their last steps across campus, but some students are having second thoughts about walking across the stage at graduation.

Next weekend's commencement ceremonies at Valdosta State are bringing some controversy with them. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp will be speaking, and that isn't sitting well with some students.

VSU administration has told students they planned to invite the governor to speak at commencement, regardless of who won November's election. Last month,

, and it's been stirring up a lot of controversy on campus.

Seniors say they feel left out of such a big decision.

VSU's Student Government Association held a meeting earlier this week to talk with school administration over some of their concerns having Kemp speak at commencement.

"This man does not correlate with VSU standards and morals in which we were taught for the last four, or even six years to follow to a T," said Jacob Alward, President of College Dems of VSU. Alward was a speaker at the meeting.

Organizers say there were students who left the meeting in tears, saying this is meant to be a time of celebration for seniors and they feel as though their voices aren't being heard. The upset students say they don't believe Gov. Kemp upholds their views and standards or meets the university's "Blazer Creed," of integrity and morals that is taught to students.

"Some of the things that he used in his political campaign and his ads and his commercials does not reflect the diverse and inclusive message that Valdosta State University preaches," said Jamontray Mike, President of the Mu Omicron chapter of VSU's Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.

They say, regardless of who won the election, commencement is not the time for uncomfortable or challenging conversations.

"Any divisive politician should have no talking at a commencement ceremony, because no matter, what someone is going to be uncomfortable," Alward said.

"Graduation is supposed to be a time the graduates are supposed to be celebrated, it's not supposed to be a time for anybody to be uncomfortable, regardless of who you are or your political affiliation. So, whether Stacey Abrams got elected or not, political figures, especially at this time, should not have been welcomed here," Mike said. "Everybody says at this university you can feel at home and you belong, we don't feel at home. We don't feel we belong."

In a statement, the university says, in part, "This commencement will be a unique opportunity for students and their families to hear from the state's highest leader and the university is committed to fostering a learning environment where open dialogue and the free exchange of ideas are welcomed."

Some students are excited about having an opportunity to hear from the state's leader.

"At the end of the day, he's still our governor, we should support him no matter what," said student Aaron Vuong.

Kemp is scheduled to speak at Saturday's ceremony.