The large globe that sits outside of the university’s Joe Mack Wilson Student Center was toppled over Tuesday night. “Save SPSU” was scribbled across the globe, which has been a campus symbol for almost 20 years, but it’s unclear if that happened before or after it fell.
A large student rally took place around the globe Monday when protestors voiced their disdain for the planned merger announced by the University System of Georgia last week.
The university system plans to ask the Board of Regents later this month to sign off on a plan to merge the school with Kennesaw State University, 10 miles northwest. The consolidation would need final approval in January 2015.
KSU is the third-largest public university in the state with 25,000 students. SPSU has more than 6,500 students. The combined enrollment would be about 31,178 students and the school would be called Kennesaw State University, essentially eliminating the Southern Polytechnic brand.
The plan has caught the ire of students who fear the school’s identity will be lost and the quality of their degrees will be cheapened by taking on the nameplate of a school that does not have the same focus on technology.
Sylvia Carson, spokeswoman for SPSU, says campus police are trying to determine if it was an act of vandalism or an accident. Carson said the globe accidentally fell on its side two years ago.
“Our students have been extremely peaceful,” Carson said of the university’s reaction following the merger announcement.
The incident was still under investigation as of Wednesday evening.
A petition started by students at the website Change.org opposing the merger had 6,847 signatures Wednesday afternoon.
Eric Cooney, an SPSU student leading the charge against the plan, said his group isn’t responsible for the globe’s plunge.
“I can 100 percent positively say that it was no one for our movement,” said Cooney, a senior technical communications major. “We absolutely don’t condone any kind of vandalism at SPSU or at KSU.”
SPSU President Lisa Rossbacher sent an email on Wednesday to the university community asking that students be respectful following the announcement of the merger.
She said she was “saddened” to see it damaged.
“As we deal with the news about institutional consolidation and the members of our community wonder what the implications will be for SPSU’s programs and people, we need to remember the importance of focusing on the core values that guide our community interactions: respect, integrity, collaboration and excellence,” Rossbacher said in the email. “I am concerned that these guiding values may be at risk, and I am sending this message as a reminder of how our individual behavior reflects our collective values.”
Rossbacher asked students who may have witnessed the event to speak out and contact the university’s police department.