Statement of Senator Ellis on Texas Southern University Advisory Council Meeting
(AUSTIN) -- Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) provided the following statement at the meeting of the Texas Southern University Advisory Council.
"Good afternoon. I want to thank the Advisory Board for inviting me here today, and Governor Perry for appointing this board to address this important issue. I know that everyone here in this room is dedicated to finding the best way to help Texas Southern University become a stronger and more stable institution for all Texans.
"As a proud alumnus of TSU, I am honored to represent its students, its faculty and its interests in the Texas Senate. I am proud of this university -- the challenges it has overcome and the successes it has enjoyed and I know that, together, we can find a way to ensure that the TSU we love is in a better position to succeed in its mission as an independent institution of higher learning.
"As a supporter of TSU, I think it is important that we not sugar coat the facts -- yes, the University has had some very real problems. Over the years, the Board of Regents has failed to eradicate these problems and, in the most recent cases, is arguably the direct source of the issues under discussion. There is no excuse for some of the decisions made by the Board of Regents and the former President, and they need to be held accountable.
"Just as they need to be held accountable for the decisions they have made which are negatively impacting the students and the university, we must be held accountable for agreements we have made. In 2000, Governor Bush signed the Office of Civil Rights Priority Plan, which was later approved by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights. That agreement was the blueprint for change at TSU and Prairie View to eradicate past discrimination and strengthen those universities for the new millennium. It spelled out specific guideposts for each school to meet, and specific mandates for the State of Texas.
"Ironically, despite the mismanagement of the former president and the appointed board, the University has made tremendous progress in fulfilling the obligations of that agreement. Since 2000, TSU has:
- strengthened its academic programs, expanded the number of degree offerings and developed new high demand programs
- significantly improved recruitment, retention and graduation
- reduced class sizes
- improved math and English scores
- fully implemented all requirements for improving operational systems for administrative and academic infrastructure
- significantly upgraded facilities to improve both the aesthetic and educational appeal
"The OCR commitment was a two-way street. It is a binding contract so, as we move forward, remember the promises we have made. We can all agree that Texas Southern University has taken significant steps forward, despite the missteps and mismanagement of the appointed board. Let's ensure that we do not throw the baby out with the bathwater as we continue this debate.
"In closing, I am encouraged that the charge of this panel is tightly focused on addressing and reforming the management of this university. Whatever administrative failures must be addressed, do not harm the students and the overall mission at this university.
"I urge this panel to continue its efforts to address and reform the management of Texas Southern University and, likewise, urge this panel to respect the commitments made to the students and faculty of this institution."
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