NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – They call themselves the “Save TSU Community Coalition”, a group focused on excelling as the state’s only publicly funded Historically Black College.
Inside the Pleasant Green Missionary Baptist Church, instead of a usual Sunday service, it was a meeting organizers said had been building for decades.
“Here we are once again speaking to lawmakers who appear to have deaf ears,” said Venita Lewis, president of the Nashville NAACP Chapter.
The conversation is a renewed push for money the group claimed has been owed for decades.
“The NAACP will continue to advocate for equality and fairness for Tennessee State University; we will continue to reach out to lawmakers to seek justice,” said Lewis.
In 2021, News 2 reported how more than $500 million was owed to Tennessee State University after a report found the school had been routinely underfunded for decades.
The report, produced by a bipartisan legislative committee, found the state did not match federal land grants given to TSU as required by law.
The organization “Save TSU Community Coalition”, claims the university has still not received those funds.
Since then, Gov. Bill Lee included $318 million for TSU in his proposed budget in 2022. It would become the largest investment in the school’s history.
The $318 million for TSU would include $250 million for infrastructure improvements, like addressing maintenance and critical campus upgrades, and $60 million for a new engineering building.
However, still, lawmakers and community members argue more is owed to the university.
“Delay, delay, delay,” said Sen. Charlane Oliver (D-Nashville). “We already see the double standard going on; we see it for what it is and we’re going to continue to push back against that.”
This year, the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office has released a special report in which they state financial practices, housing concerns, and other issues plaguing the school. At the time, university leaders are disputing the report and spoke during Thursday’s Ad Hoc Senate Committee meeting at the State Capitol.
“There was no missing funds, no misappropriation, and no fraud,” TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover said back in February. “It was basically about scholarships that we paid for with our own money.”
TSU argued in front of the subcommittee that the Comptroller’s numbers don’t tell a complete story. A week later, a Joint Government Operations Subcommittee voted unanimously to extend the Tennessee State University Board of Trustees for at least one more year.
“Withholding of funds that has now become embedded in the efforts of the state lawmakers to aggressively remove board members and to target a role model president,” said Lewis.
Lee’s office maintains he has continued to be a supporter of Tennessee State University.
The unanimous vote to keep the board is not binding. Instead, it’s simply a recommendation to the full Government Operations Committees in the House and Senate. Oliver expects the issue will be brought up again during the next legislative session.