NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Tennessee State University (TSU) students plan to protest Thursday as a critical report about the school is scheduled to be discussed by lawmakers.
The State Comptroller’s Office released the findings of an audit on Wednesday, Feb. 22, citing issues with fiscal practices and recommending changes to the school’s leadership.
“It is very drastic, very heavy handed,” said State Rep. Vincent Dixie, a TSU alum. “I think we have to ask why.”
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The audit came after TSU made headlines for housing problems forcing students to live off campus. According to the state comptroller’s office, their goal was to answer state officials’ questions about the university’s housing shortage and to see what’s needed in the future for the success of students and the university as enrollment has reached record highs in recent years.
The report claimed auditors found TSU management has repeatedly fallen short of sound fiscal practices, adequate documentation, and responsive communications to concerned parents and students. Additionally, they said there have been repeated inconsistencies between testimony given by TSU officials to state officials and actions later carried out.
The report then detailed 12 policy changes to consider, including the General Assembly placing TSU under the authority of the Tennessee Board of Regents, vacating and restructuring the TSU Board of Trustees, and that the TSU Board of Trustees could replace current TSU management.
“I think it’s a bit heavy handed, when you come down with those particular I will call them punishments rather than the resolutions or solutions,” said Dixie. “There are a lot of things that universities have to deal with. Tennessee State has has grown tremendously over these last four to five years. And they’ve thrived in that environment that’s been really tough.”
The executive summary of the report stated, “For years, TSU management’s response to audit findings from the Comptroller’s Office has been that . . . new policies, programs, and staff would correct the issues, but these issues have continued to persist, and neither TSU management nor the TSU Board of Trustees has taken sufficient remedial action.”
In a response included in the report, TSU President Dr. Glenda Glover pointed out the report confirmed there were no funds missing or misappropriated and that the school would implement some immediate changes to address concerns. She also didn’t agree with all the policy considerations, stating some were unprecedented, unwarranted, and inequitable.
TSU leaders also shared a response on social media stating in part, “We are disappointed that the report, for the most part, misses the mark on proposing additional resources to support TSU’s growth as was stated by the Comptroller as the primary purpose for the operational review.”
Dixie said it’s another example of state leaders overreaching.
“It’s about control. Now you have the Speaker of the House and Lieutenant Governor want to take over the sports authority, the airport authority, and the convention center in Davidson County, and why? It’s about control,” said Dixie. “So now you have this gem of a university that’s excelling. Now it becomes a target and now you want to take over that.”
Students are planning a peaceful protest at 10:30 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 23 in front of the State Capitol downtown, expressing their disdain with the social media hashtag #HandsOffTSU.
State Rep. Harold Love Jr. shared a letter on social media earlier this week addressed to ‘TSU Family’ seemingly to clarify discussions happening in the community.
Click here to read the executive summary and here to read the full report.
The Comptroller’s Office will present its special report to the Senate’s Ad Hoc Committee on TSU Thursday immediately following the Senate Floor Session in Senate Hearing Room 1. On Monday, Feb. 27, the report will also be shared with the Education, Health, and General Welfare Joint Evaluation Committee of the Government Operations Committee during TSU’s sunset hearing at 9 a.m.