Compiled – According to State Representative Yusuf Hakeem the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators is standing with Tennessee State University and supporting the decision to let its Board of Trustees remain intact for another year.
This comes after the State Comptroller’s office released an audit that was severely critical of TSU and made several suggestions for improvement, including possibly removing the President and the Board of Trustees.
The audit focuses on last Fall when TSU leadership undertook an extensive recruiting and scholarship drive. The University ballooned the scholarship budget from $6 million dollars to $28 million dollars—without taking into full consideration that the school didn’t have enough on-campus housing to accommodate all of those students. As a result, the school had to scramble to provide housing at several hotels. Exacerbating the situation was admittedly poor communication between the school and the incoming freshman class that frustrated many of the students and their families.
TSU President Glenda Glover has pointed out that the University readily admits that the mistakes that were made and that the administration has taken steps to alleviate the situation in the future. However, the report goes on to list several potential recommendations for TSU, including possibly changing management at the University, vacating, and replacing the TSU board, and placing TSU back under Board of Regents oversight, (where it would be the only 4-year institution in the state under such guidance).
Keep in mind that these recommendations are based on having insufficient housing for the record number of scholarships that they awarded last year in an effort to educate more students. There was no financial malfeasance or mismanagement. The suggestions of these major changes are based solely on the housing issues.
Following the presentation of the audit, Representative Sam McKenzie, Chairman of the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators, held a press conference where he said that the potential penalties far outweigh the infractions.
Rep. McKenzie, who represents the Knoxville district where the University of Tennessee is located, said U-T is also currently using hotels to house overflow students. And that in Knoxville, the increased enrollment numbers are good news and a cause for celebration. He talked about how his alma mater, Fisk University, is using converted land-sea shipping containers for overflow housing and they are being applauded for their ingenuity. He said that while increased enrollment is being celebrated at other schools, it’s suggested that drastic action be taken at TSU. He also noted that at other schools, junior and senior years are a time that students leave dorm rooms and move off-campus, that option is cost prohibitive in Nashville and off the table.
Finally, McKenzie made the point that TSU has a plan to fix the problems cited, but we won’t even have a chance to see if remedies are successful until next Fall.
The audit was presented again on Monday to a Government Operations Subcommittee. The Committee room was filled with TSU supporters wearing blue and overflow supporters had to watch monitors in the hallway. After hearing from President Glover and several TSU supporters, the Committee decided to recommend that the current board remain in place for another year. That recommendation will now go on through the committee process in House and the Senate en route to an eventual full vote in both chambers.
The full audit is here: TSUFullReport.pdf (tn.gov)
The link to the first hearing is here: Senate Ad Hoc Committee to Review the Management and Operations of Facilities and Dormitories at TN State University (granicus.com)
The second hearing can be viewed here: Ed., Health & GW Joint Sub of Gov Op (granicus.com)