Monday, April 30, 2007

Meanwhile, Back at TSU

First a warning; the following post is long!

Well, the ongoing saga that is Texas Southern University continued through the weekend. On Friday, conceding to Gov. Rick Perry's request, the Board of Regents resigned in mass. However:

...a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry said the resignations are not what the governor wanted, and asked the Senate to remove the chairwoman.

Regents Chairwoman Belinda Griffin wrote Perry today on behalf of the entire board, saying they would resign when he named a replacement board. Perry had asked earlier this month for the entire board's resignation immediately so he could try to place the troubled historically black university under conservatorship.

"It looks like a pretend resignation," Perry spokesman Ted Royer said. "Continuing to function as a board is not a resignation by any means."

Now while all of this was going on, the legislature is getting busy itself, with Black lawmakers State Rep. Garnet Coleman and State Senators Rodney Ellis and Royce West introducing a bill that

... would allow Perry to dissolve a board of regents in times of financial or administrative crisis, and appoint a smaller board to institute a reform plan during a one-year tenure and submit frequent progress reports to the state. The bill was framed as an alternative to Perry's conservatorship plan, announced earlier this month.

According to the same Houston Chronicle article

Several lawmakers and many at TSU opposed the conservatorship idea because it would put the historically black university's accreditation at risk. A conservatorship is essentially a one-person board, giving the conservator the power to make managerial and financial decisions. That setup would violate an accreditation requirement that at least a five-member board govern over colleges and universities. The new legislation calls for an interim five-member board to meet that rule.

Besides degrading the value of a degree, losing accreditation also would mean that students attending the open-enrollment university would not be able to receive federal financial aid. The vast majority of TSU students receive such aid. read more...

Having his wish left unfilled, Gov. Perry moved late on Friday to impeach the Chairwoman of the Board of Regents becuase she called for a meeting of the board today (which was cancelled due to lack of quorum). Ms. Griffin had stated in her letter to to the governor on Friday that all regents would resign once their replacements had been appointed and confirmed by the Senate. That didn't sit to well with Perry obviously. His spokesman stated that:

..."It's inappropriate for the chair to move forward with a meeting that could lead to more expenses for the university," Perry spokesman Ted Royer said. "Those are the types of decisions best made by new leadership."

This, by the way, is the first time during his six year tenure as governor that Rick Perry has initiated such an action despite other opportunities to provide such "leadership."

Ms. Griffin responded by saying

...the governor's office had told her as recently as Wednesday that the regents should continue to run the university until a new board is in place.

"Why they're acting all surprised is dumbfounding to me," she said in an interview. "I'm incredibly, incredibly disappointed in the governor's office."

Meanwhile, the Legislative Black Caucus issued a statement that they oppose the compromise plan introduced by Rep. Coleman, a Caucus member and Sens. Ellis and West. They said that they have seen no proof of gross financial management and that the crisis has been overblown.

..."We haven't seen any proof this university is going to implode because of the financial situation," said Rep. Sylvester Turner, D-Houston.

"There's no need to give him more power to just go in and take over," said Rep. Senfronia Thompson, D-Houston.

Coleman acknowledged his bill could be drastically changed. "We all have the same goal," Coleman said. "We're going to have to do something to protect the students and the future of the school." read more...

Confused yet? Well stay tuned, I'm sure there's more to come. In the meantime, I tip my hat to everyone out there fighting to keep this institute of higher education in the position to fulfill it's vital role. The potential loss of accreditation is serious, as the university could basically be reduced to the status of a community college if it occurs. That would in turn devalue the degrees of everyone who has attended TSU over the years, and that's a lot of folks.

Additionally, there are the questions of why TSU, why now, and why this plan and only this plan is good enough for the governor? As stated in a comment received from my earlier post on this issue;

..."It seems as if no one has taken note of the contrast between the Governor’s and the Legislature’s response to the scandal at TSU and their response to the scandal at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston? The scandal at UTMB involved a lot more people, a lot more wrongdoing and a whole lot more money. It also resulted in a lot of innocent people losing their jobs. TSU is going to be put into conservatorship. UTMB? Well, the Legislature dumped literally tens of millions of EXTRA dollars into the laps of the corrupt incompetents at UTMB to mismanage, and the Governor hasn’t had a word to say about that particular scandal, let alone try to hold the people responsible accountable. I wonder what the difference is?"

I think I know, but decide for yourself.

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