Home Local News Bishop Barber joins TSU student leaders to sound alarm about extremist Republican attacks on HBCUs

Bishop Barber joins TSU student leaders to sound alarm about extremist Republican attacks on HBCUs

by PRIDE Newsdesk
TSU Student Trustee Shaun Wimberly, Jr., speaks at a press conference decrying the treatment of TSU by Tennessee Republican lawmakers and calling for equitable funding for all HBCUs.

In the latest unprecedented move by the Tennessee House, the entire Board of Trustees at Tennessee State University was removed after a vote by the House. Gov. Bill Lee signed the legislation into law.

Lee replaced the board with TSU alumni.

The Republican supermajority’s calls for a new board were based on multiple audit reports highlighting concerns about the mishandling of finances, housing, and scholarships.

According to one review, the financial irregularities “did not identify evidence indicative of fraud or malfeasance by executive leadership,” as well as only seven transactions costing less than $4,000 that could not be substantiated as university business.

The move comes as Tennessee State University, an 1890 land grant institution and the only HBCU in the state, has been underfunded for 30 years.

The original Morrill Act of 1862 established White-only land grant institutions to teach agricultural and mechanical arts. The Second Morrill Act of 1890 required that states choosing to open a second land-grant institution to serve Black students must provide equitable distribution of funds between their 1862 and 1890 land-grant institutions. Last year, a letter was sent to the governor of Tennessee from the U.S. Secretary of Education and the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture regarding the inequitable funding for HBCUs.

The letter stated: “Tennessee State University, the 1890 land-grant institution in your state, while producing extraordinary graduates that contribute greatly to the state’s economy and the fabric of our nation, has not been able to advance in ways that are on par with the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, the original Morrill Act of 1862 land-grant institution in your state, in large part due to unbalanced funding.”

According to educator and columnist David W. Marshall: “If the state funding per student for Tennessee State were equal to that of Tennessee-Knoxville, then TSU would have received an additional $2.1 billion over 30 years. One can easily say that the holding back of critical funding to the tune of $2.1 billion contributed greatly to the university’s financial woes.”

On Monday, student leaders from TSU held a press conference at the Tennessee State Legislative Rotunda with Bishop William Barber and other leaders to call on the Tennessee governor and legislature to stop the “unfounded and overreaching attacks on TSU.”

“I want to make sure we understand that what happened at TSU is a reflection of our community,” said Shaun Wimberly, Jr., Tennessee State University student trustee. “It shows the state of our current Black community and the state our university right now is simply a product of us not thinking as strategically or being as unified as our ancestors have been.

“We’ve allowed others to determine our path and we’ve almost forgotten that HBCUs are our home here in America.  The fight to prevent the state overreach on the board of trustees has been lost, but I’m hopeful for the future of our university.

“We have a bigger battle already ahead of us. That is the fight for equitable funding. Now is not the time for begging or requesting. It is the time to take what is ours.”

Bishop William J. Barber II, the National co-chair of the Poor Peoples Campaign said: “Irregardless of what the legislature has done, the fight still continues. We are here today to say to all alumni and students it’s time we sound an alarm and fight back in every state.” 

Barber pointed out that TSU is not alone in being an underfunded HBCU and that all of the colleges that have been underfunded (except one in Oklahoma) are in former Confederate states. 

“And every one of those states should have White and Black and Brown people to bring lawsuits,” said Barber. “History is clear, and we can’t keep begging. We need to have legislation, litigation, and agitation.”

New Tennessee State University Board of Trustees

  • Trevia Chatman, president, Bank of America-Memphis
  • Jeffery Norfleet, provost and vice president for administration, Shorter College
  • Marquita Qualls, founder and principal, Entropia Consulting
  • Terica Smith, deputy mayor and director of Human Resources, Madison County
  • Charles Traughber, general counsel, Division of Real Estate, Retail, and Financial Services at Bridgestone Americas
  • Dwayne Tucker, CEO of LEAD Public Schools
  • Kevin Williams, president/CEO of GAA Manufacturing
  • Dakasha Winton, senior vice president and chief government relations officer at BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee

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