Republican Lawmakers Have Removed The Board Of Trustees At This HBCU In Tennessee


Courtesy Tennessee State University / Facebook

The trustees of Tennessee’s sole publicly funded historically Black university were removed last week under legislation signed into law by Republican Gov. Bill Lee. According to The Associated Press, the move has sparked major criticism. Black lawmakers and community activists claim state leaders, the majority of whom are white, are unfairly targeting Tennessee State University.

The legislation swiftly passed the GOP-controlled House, with Lee signing off shortly after the vote without mentioning the controversial decision to vacate the board. Instead, Lee praised  TSU as a “remarkable institution” as he shared that he had already selected 10 new replacements.

“I’m pleased to appoint these highly qualified individuals who will work alongside administrators and students to further secure TSU’s place as a leading institution,” Lee said. The new appointees, most of whom come from the business community, are now subject to confirmation by the legislature. Their selection comes at a critical time because TSU is already looking for a new president, as Glenda Glover plans to retire at the end of this school year.

Critics argue that the decision to replace the board is unjust, particularly given the lack of meaningful engagement with TSU’s leadership and community stakeholders. Republican leaders have cited multiple state audits highlighting issues such as student housing shortages and financial discrepancies as reasons for the board’s removal.

However, Democrats and others argue that TSU’s challenges stem primarily from chronic underfunding by the state, totaling an estimated $2.1 billion over the last three decades.

They also raise concerns about racial dynamics, suggesting that the majority-white Legislature distrusts a Black-controlled institution’s ability to manage itself. 

“Instead of us rectifying the problems that we created through racist policies by underfunding Tennessee State University, we’re now advocating to vacate their board,” said Rep. Justin Pearson, a Democrat from Memphis, who criticized his Republican colleagues.

The GOP supermajority ultimately voted down efforts by Democrats to delay or amend the legislation. The decision to vacate the board has drawn strong reactions from TSU supporters and students, with some expressing disappointment and frustration at the Legislature’s response to the university’s challenges.


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