AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – A group of Augusta University students conducted a modern day “sit-in” following what they call the unfair firing of a multicultural leader at the school.
Students from several groups filled the Multicultural Center inside the student center at Augusta University to protest in the form of a “sit -in.” They told NewsChannel 6 the one person who promoted diversity and inclusion the most on campus was fired October 15. Now, they are organizing on behalf of Karen Mobley, demanding an unbiased, full review into her alleged termination.
They said it all started a week prior when Mobley closed the center’s doors to do a deep cleaning and repairs after students allegedly trashed the place.
The school closed for fall break and then they heard the news.
The students said Mobley was there for them.
“Not just for students of color, but LGBT students, white students, black students, students from middle east, everybody,” said Joseph Wallace with LAMBDA Alliance. “And that’s what Ms. Karen did. She was, in a sense, doing her job to promote diversity and inclusion and provide a healthy, safe learning environment for all students.”
Sit – ins stem back to the Civil Rights Movement, but students told us it’s needed today.
Wallace added, “We’re not just college students. We’re not just 18, 19 and 20. We are people from different backgrounds. We are gay, we are bi, we are transgender. We are black. We are white and we are here and our voice will be heard. So, us doing a sit in means everything.”
Another LAMBDA Alliance member, Keiondra Johnson, also spoke with us. She said, “She was a role model for me. It was great looking up to someone who looked like me.”
Johnson added Mobley, who worked in Multicultural Student Engagement as its Director, helped with groups such as LAMBDA Alliance, making sure students were more accepted based on their sexuality.
“Also Sister Circle that she’s done, that was an amazing event for me to go to because it provided a space for young black women to go to talk about their issues and things that we have collectively dealt with,” Johnson said.
The university sent an email Friday, October 18 stating Garrett Green would lead the role Mobley once did.
But students want more from school leaders if Mobely does not return.
“We want the students, especially, to sit in on one of the search committee meetings and to actually give their voice,” said English Professor and Black Student Union Advisor Seretha Williams, noting how proud she was of students for the sit – in.
Students also sent letters to administrators, but told us they have not heard back.
We reached out to the school’s communications department, but was told they do not comment on personnel issues.
Mobley shared with us her letter of appeal to Augusta University. The nine page document with an addendum, states that she was terminated for:
“Closing the Multicultural Student Center without consulting your supervisor or anyone else in the chain of command and therefore without approval.”
But Mobley responded:
“Protocol has been established that it is appropriate for me to make decisions for the Multicultural Center without direct supervision including purchases for the center and the establishment of openings and closings.”
She added that she received a positive performance evaluation a few weeks prior to her termination. She also said:
“This termination came after working in what constitutes as a hostile work environment for a period of time as well as a working environment in which I was harassed and discriminated against. I am the only African-American female employee in the position of Director in the Division of Enrollment and Student Affairs. I am the only Director without a full time staff.”
Count on NewsChannel 6 to follow and keep you updated on this story.
Photojournalist: Gary Hipps