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Free UAB movement takes its message to Board of Trustees meeting

Free UAB protesters at the UA System Board of Trustees meeting in Birmingham, Ala., Friday, Feb. 6, 2015. (abc3340.com)

Since the battle to keep UAB football began late last year, the Free UAB movement wanted to get a message to the University of Alabama System Board of Trustees.

The board met for its regularly scheduled meeting Friday morning in Birmingham.

Free UAB protesters packed into the room.

The Free UAB movement is made up of students, parents, alumni and community members.

"We believe the Board of Trustees have lied to us," said Lavon Chaney, a parent of a UAB student. "They are trying to rule us like tyrants."

Chaney was part of the crowd at the Board of Trustees meeting trying to send a strong message.

"We do not need the board of trustees," Chaney told ABC 33/40. "We believe they need us more than we need them. UAB has outgrown the board. We need to make our own decisions. We feel like we're treated unfairly."

Board member Joe Espy says he heard their message loud and clear. He says it is okay for them to disagree with each other and he welcomes a conversation.

The board fully supports UAB President Ray Watts even though the Faculty Senate voted no confidence in his leadership. Watts says he has no plans to resign.

When UAB President Ray Watts stepped up to give his institutional presentation to the board, those in the Free UAB movement stood up and turned their backs.

"We would like to see them fire Ray Watts," said Chaney. "I can't believe they keep him after all the no confidence votes."

In his presentation to the board, Watts highlighted accomplishments at UAB over the past year. He says the university produced groundbreaking discoveries and innovations.

Watts wasn't fazed by the demonstrations.

"This is an important message and the message is far more important than someone trying to interrupt it," Watts told ABC 33/40.

Dr. Chad Epps, Faculty Senate President urged the Board of Trustees to take its vote of no confidence under serious consideration.

"Without confidence in a leader and without a robust shared governance, our collective ability to achieve the mission of this great university is at stake," Epps told the board.

The Student Government President Anjali Wagle echoed those concerns.

"A vote of no confidence is a vote of no credibility," said Wagle.

The board still has confidence.

"I heard their voices," said Espy. "Don't misunderstand. We're going to have communications and we're going to reach the right place. Don't make any misunderstanding. But let me say this, I support Ray Watts. 99 percent of what he has done here is absolutely outstanding."

Espy says public dollars have been moved from education to athletics to support programs. He wants to know how much money they believe is acceptable to use for a purpose other than education. He expects the conversation to continue.

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