A meeting set for Thursday evening to discuss concerns and issues over recent decisions steering the path of Tennessee State University will likely proceed without two key invitees.
The group Save TSU Community Coalition, along with the NAACP, will co-host a “teach-in” meant to address issues the coalition sees as problems for the university. The teach-in is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at the Corinthian Baptist Church on 33rd Avenue North, following a NAACP membership meeting at 6 p.m.
Dr. Sheila Peters, executive member of the NAACP Nashville branch and co-chair of the branch’s Education Committee, said the NAACP is co-hosting the teach-in as part of a “fact-finding” process following a complaint it received from STCC.
“We’re in a fact-finding phase right now,” Peters said, “and the purpose of the meeting [Thursday] is not to take any side but to provide an opportunity for individuals to share their concerns.”
The coalition claims, among other things, changes under the university’s interim president, Dr. Portia Shields, were not properly discussed and approved by the faculty.
The Tennessee Board of Regents named Shields interim president of TSU last December, after the university had been put on warning by its accrediting body, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
In a release earlier this week, STCC said it had invited Shields and Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan to attend and “explain their positions on the problems at TSU.”
A message left for Shields seeking comment yielded no response, but a university spokeswoman responded later in an email.
“This event is not an official University event, nor will anyone from the University be in attendance,” said Raynetta Smith, TSU public information officer. “This group does have the right to protest and express their views about the changes being made at the University. However, all changes made at TSU have been approved by the Tennessee Board of Regents and were done so to protect the University as well as our students, faculty and staff.”
The TBR’s Morgan is currently on vacation until mid-October and therefore would not be able attend Thursday’s meeting, according to TBR Communications Director Monica Greppin.
Greppin said, however, that Morgan felt if the teach-in is to address concerns over changes to academic programs at TSU, then university officials would be better suited to address the concerns.
“But he did say that he would be happy to meet with the Education Committee co-chairs [of the NAACP Nashville branch] at a later time,” Greppin said.
Regarding the teach-in, the NAACP’s Peters said, “We hope to educate all persons that are there, and from a branch standpoint we want to become more knowledgeable ourselves so we know where we need to proceed with the complaint.
“We ultimately want to hear from both sides but that may not be at a public forum,” she added.
A draft of a proposed NAACP resolution calling for the governor, the TBR and Morgan to reverse changes made by Shields and begin a search for a permanent TSU president has been presented to the Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP, but the Nashville branch has yet to approve it.
Peters said the branch would be taking a closer look at the resolution in the future.
In its own release sent out last week, TSU touted a record enrollment of 9,165 students for the current academic year, the highest mark in its 100-year history.
Thursday’s teach-in, one in a monthly series organized by STCC, will be held at the Corinthian Missionary Baptist Church at 819 33rd Ave. N. at the corner of 33rd Avenue and Batavia Street.