Last week, Governor Perry ordered TSU be put into conservatorship.
Gov. Rick Perry asked Texas Southern University's regents to resign Friday in favor of a single conservator with extraordinary powers to make changes at the financially troubled school.
The governor did not announce who the conservator would be, but campus leaders have heard the name of Kerney Laday, a TXU Corp. board member and retired Xerox Corp. executive.
Pending Senate confirmation, Laday, 65, would be placed in charge of the university's spending, with the ability to fire any employee, hire new people and change the administrative structure. The conservator would likely be in place for a year, said Krista Moody, a spokeswoman for the governor.
The initial news release announcing his decision said TSU's situation required "swift and divisive action." Perry's office later corrected the statement to read that the action should be swift and "decisive."
The decision, however, roiled Democratic lawmakers whose districts include the southeast Houston campus, which is the nation's second-largest historically black university with 11,000 students.
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee asked Perry to reconsider, saying "conservatorship would be a death knell instead of a solution." And state Rep. Garnet Coleman said the situation requires "something as strong as vinegar, but not battery acid."
Coleman said conservatorship would cause division and strife among those with ties to TSU. "People won't like it, and I think you can achieve the same results without a conservator," he said.
Fifteen lawmakers, led by Coleman and state Sen. Rodney Ellis, sent a letter to Perry before the announcement asking him not to recommend a conservator.
Perry called for conservatorship even after his TSU advisory committee recently stopped short of recommending it, urging him instead to make changes on the university's governing board because alumni, students and lawmakers had lost confidence in the regents.
The committee also recommended that TSU should be under continuous audits by the state, with the findings sent to the regents, governor and Legislature at least every three months.
Who: Citizens for Higher Education & former Texas Southern University President James Douglas
What: Community Meeting to discuss the future of Texas Southern University
When: 7:00pm - Monday, April 16, 2007
Where: Good Hope Baptist Church, 3015 North MacGregor Way, Houston, Texas, 77004
Governor Rick Perry has recommended that Texas Southern University be placed under conservatorship.
Citizens for Higher Education wants you to join us so that we may together meet and discuss the future of Texas Southern University.
Contact Mr. James Douglas at (713) 385-7471 if you have any questions or are in need of any assistance.
State Representative Garnet F. Coleman (D-Houston) expressed extreme disappointment concerning Governor Perry's decision to place Texas Southern University under conservatorship.
"I'm very disappointed Governor Perry has decided to put TSU into conservatorship, a decision that goes against the recommendation made by the TSU Blue Ribbon Panel he appointed," Rep. Coleman said. "It's especially disappointing considering that the current financial problems are problems caused by regents and other individuals Governor Perry appointed himself."
Rep. Coleman agrees that increased accountability and oversight is needed at TSU, but disagrees on the method the Governor has chosen to take. There are currently five vacancies on the nine-member Board of Regents for Texas Southern University.
"If Governor Perry filled the five vacancies on the Board of Regents for TSU, he would effectively be appointing a new Board that could provide the necessary oversight for the school," Rep. Coleman said. "We should also follow the advice of the Blue Ribbon Panel, who recommended reinstating the accountability rider, 'Rider 5,' for Texas Southern University. I authored the original accountability rider, and it should be put back in place to ensure the financial problems created by Priscilla Slade and Quentin Wiggins are never repeated."
Representative Coleman, Senator Rodney Ellis, and thirteen other State Representatives delivered a signed letter to Governor Perry, Lieutenant Governor Dewhurst, and Speaker Tom Craddick against the conservatorship of Texas Southern University. The letter, which is attached with the signatures, read as follows:
We, the undersigned members, are against conservatorship of Texas Southern University (TSU). We believe there are financial problems to be addressed and solved at TSU, and we are committed to solving those problems. We believe there must be strong oversight from you, but a conservator for TSU will be divisive and will create community strife.
In order to prevent such division, we believe there are other methods to manage the necessary improvements for TSU that will ensure we maintain the strong, independent nature of Texas Southern University. The Governor has five open appointments of the nine member Board of Regents for Texas Southern University, which is effectively a new Board for TSU.
The current fiscal situation at Texas Southern University is very different from the situation in 1997, which involved financial aid. Since 1997, Texas Southern University had maintained a strong financial history. It was not until questions were raised about the decisions made by the former President and Chief Financial Officer at TSU that any financial issues became evident. One resigned on March 16, 2006, and the other was fired on June 17, 2006. They are currently being dealt with by the criminal justice system.
We are eager to work with you on a solution to correct the problems caused by identifiable individuals. However, we cannot overemphasize the extent to which conservatorship of Texas Southern University will be divisive and will create community strife.
We are available to meet and discuss this matter with you at any time. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Rep. Garnet Coleman at his office (512-463-0524)[.]
St. Representative Sylvester Turner today criticized Gov. Rick Perry's decision to put Texas Southern University under a conservatorship.
"I strongly disagree with Gov. Perry placing TSU under conservatorship," said Turner. "I am asking the governor to immediately rescind his decision. Based on the information I have received about TSU's situation, it does not merit this action.
"The governor appointed a blue ribbon committee to look into TSU," Turner pointed out. "That committee did not recommend conservatorship. The Higher Education Coordinating Board says this has never happened before. It does not need to happen now.
"This action by the governor is harmful to the institution, it is not in the best interests of the 11,000-plus students there now and students who will attend in the future and it disrespects the members of the state Legislature. To wait and announce this action after legislators are out of town on a Friday afternoon after we have been in session all week raises serious flags. There should be serious pushback on this.
"I agree the Board of Regents needed to be reconstituted but no one should read from this action by the governor that TSU is in such serious financial turmoil that this was the only step the governor should take."