ATLANTA (WXIA) -- A new student club at Georgia State University isattracting more attention than most new student clubs do -- just theclub's name is stirring up controversy.
The first-year student at Georgia State who organized the club is calling it the "White Student Union."
Photo Gallery:Student organizes "White Student Union"
The organizer, Patrick Sharp, insisted Wednesday night that no one should have any cause for worry or concern.
Sharp said he has heard objections from students about the club's name, and he understands why some are objecting.
But he's hoping no one will pre-judge him or his club.
"I decided to organize a White Student Union," he said, simply.
He started posting flyers this summer on the downtown Atlanta campus of Georgia State University.
Sharp said when he started his first year during thissummer term, henoticed there were many other student clubs devoted to various racialand ethnic interests.
So he started the White Student Union.
He said five or six students have joined so far.
"I sort of took it upon myself, kind of with inspiration from Matthew Heimbach's group in Maryland, at Towson University," which is alsocalled the White Student Union, to form a similar club at GSU, Sharpsaid.
The White Student Union at Towson University has been accused of being a hate group, which Heimbach has denied.
At GSU, the group "Progressive Student Alliance" has posted flyers oncampus against Sharp's club, equating his club with white supremacists.
"You know, to say this is some closeted or curtained white supremacy,it's pretty -- and I'll go ahead and turn their words around on them --it's pretty ignorant and close-minded," Sharp said. "It's a prideorganization, it's a cultural organization, what we have is not hate forany other group... Whites are becoming a minority... We have a voice,we're unique people, and we have every right to make that voice heard."
The new club has stirred up controversy not only among students atGeorgia State, but also among students at other colleges anduniversities.
Amanda Miller just graduated from Agnes Scott College in Decatur, andwas at GSU Wednesday night waiting for a friend who was taking a finalexam.
"I think to have a white student association is kind of ridiculous,"Miller, who is white, said. "I mean, on one level, I understand wantingto connect with your heritage," and she said she might be interested inparticipating with others who shareher family's background, which isIrish and Norwegian. "I don't feel the need to join a white studentassociation. I'm happy to connect with my personal, cultural roots. But awhite student association sounds a little, I don't know, I could seehow it could go very wrong."
GSU Senior Stephanie-Joy Rhoden, an African American: "It's just thename, I think, really to be honest" that raises concerns for many. "Thatmight make you go to that place in your head where you're, like, whoa,wait a minute, what's that about."
She's keeping an open mind about the club.
"Hopefully they have good intentions," she said, and, if so, no oneshould interfere with them "to do their thing. If they want to make agroup, who's to say that they can't, in today's society?"
"At this point, we're received emails from six students," said GSU'sVice President for Student Affairs, Douglass Covey. "The students areexpressing concern about the intended purpose of this organization."
Dr. Covey tells them the White Student Union, as an informal student club, has every right to exist.
The GSU student body is diverse. 38 percent are white, 35 percent areblack, 12 percent are Asian, and seven percent are Latinos.
Dr. Covey said if Sharp wants the club to be a formal, recognized,GSU student organization, he can go through the same application processthat the current, 300 or so official student clubs underwent.
"The campus, as a public institution, is a place where freedom ofspeech and association and the liberal exchange of different points offew is cherished and protected," Dr. Covey said. "And any group thatwishes to seek recognition must meet the standards of alignment withinstitutional mission and non-discrimination. And any group which wishesto exist informally, without institutional affiliation, certainly isfree to do so, just as a right of their citizenship."
"What we are is an organization that just loves where we come from,"Sharp said, "we love our heritage, we love our ancestries, and we have alot of pride in that."
Sharp said he hopes the club will grow during fall semester when morestudents are attending classes. And he said he wants to work withstudent clubs representing other races and ethnic groups on charitiesand causes and issues important to all on campus and across the city.
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