Startled by the depth of Texas Southern University’s multi million-dollar financial woes, Gov. Rick Perry has ordered its board of regents to start making “tough decisions” to fix the problems or resign.
“It can’t be a Mickey Mouse deal,” Perry spokesman Robert Black told the Houston Chronicle on Thursday. “It can’t be a Band-Aid.”
In private meetings last week, Perry demanded that TSU’s regents come up with a concrete plan within 30-45 days to start fixing problems plaguing the university’s finances this year.
Next week, the terms of three of TSU’s nine regents expire, giving Perry the opportunity to name new members.
Perry also plans to announce a blue-ribbon panel that will develop a long-term plan for TSU, including defining its academic mission.
One fear, which the governor’s office said it hopes to avoid, is that TSU would be merged into another university.
Houston Democrats Sen. Rodney Ellis and Rep. Garnet Coleman underscored the importance of protecting the historically black university and keeping it independent. They noted its long history in shaping Houston’s black middle class.
“TSU is in the neighborhood where I grew up. It isn’t just an institution I represent,” Coleman said. “It’s more than that. TSU represents some of the best of black Texas and black Houston.”
Ellis said he is a graduate of the university, along with political notables including the late U.S. Reps. Barbara Jordan and Mickey Leland and lawyer and former U.S. Congressman Craig Washington.
Ellis, complaining that Texas’ two historically black universities have been underfunded since their inception, said he hopes Perry’s actions will prove positive for TSU.
“I’m glad he’s stepping up to the plate,” he said. “Let’s hope he’s correcting that historical wrong.”
Yet, with TSU asking the Legislature for millions in emergency funds and financial help while its money matters are “in shambles,” Black said, lawmakers are apt to lose patience.
“It can’t be the same old, same old. They’re going to have to make the hard decisions to correct these issues,” he said.
FULL STORY AT: http://chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/4501057.html