The board of supervisors for the Southern University System voted Friday to award posthumous degrees to two students who were killed on campus on campus in 1972.

The students, Leonard Brown and Denver Smith, were killed during a student demonstration, apparently by law enforcement authorities.

No one was charged.

The degrees will be awarded during commencement ceremonies on May 12, Henry Tillman, director of communications, said.

What  type of degrees will be presented has not been decided, Tillman said.

Before the plan won approval, a committee of the board endorsed it without discussion.

The student union at Southern University is named in their memory – the Smith-Brown Memorial Union. The dedication took place in 1992, and the families of both students laid a wreath at the site where they were killed.

The shootings took place on Nov. 16, 1972.

According to news accounts of students who were there, a few dozen had peacefully taken over the school's Administration Building to air a variety of grievances, including funding and how state assistance for Southern compared with LSU.

Meanwhile, deputies from the East Baton Parish Sheriff's Office were on the campus watching the protests, which began in October.

Frederick J. Prejean, then a student at Southern University, told The Advocate in 1996 that he and three other protest leaders were arrested and jailed shortly before the shootings.

Law enforcement officials tossed tear gas canisters to try to get students to disperse.

"We weren't doing anything wrong, but we just wouldn't do what they wanted us to do," Prejean said, reflecting on the events 24 years later. 

"So for fighting for a quality education they shot us," he said.

Smith and Brown were described as advocates for student rights.

The shootings took place during an era when student unrest  was widespread, mostly because of protests against the Vietnam War.

Two years earlier, four students were killed at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio by members of the Ohio National Guard during an antiwar  protest, sparking university strikes nationwide.

Nine others were injured.

Follow Will Sentell on Twitter, @WillSentell.