NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – SB 2109 essentially removes Tennessee State University’s Board of Trustees and gives governance to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
State Sen. Jon Lundberg (R-Bristol) is sponsoring the bill and believes this is the best course of action for the state to move the university forward.
“The current board has gone along with what’s been going on, and that says they haven’t raised their hands, they haven’t spoken up, they haven’t taken their fiduciary responsibility to the point that they need to,” Lundberg said, adding that it is time for lawmakers to step in and force some change.
Lundberg based the response to continued financial mismanagement, which was discovered in a 2023 comptroller’s audit.
Also, a recent News 2 story showed students reporting problems with scholarships or financial aid. This convinced Lundberg that TSU needs a change.
The university sent News 2 the following statement about the state’s allegations:
TSU is aware of two pieces of legislation in front of the General Assembly that may affect the university. The first bill, SB 1596, extends the TSU Board’s governance authority for one year. TSU continues to work with legislators to secure a multi-year extension of the Board.
The other piece of legislation, SB 2109, transfers the governance of any state university board to the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) in the event a state university board ceases to exists through the sunset review process. This bill is not exclusive or specific to TSU. TSU is working with legislators to address potential issues and challenges associated with this bill, addressing any legislation that would have detrimental effects on our students and the university, and avoid the potential existence of a substantially different governance structure than created under the FOCUS Act.
As to your other inquiries, TSU has been cooperative with forensic auditors and conducts weekly meetings with the forensic auditors to ensure the institution is being responsive to auditor requests. We are disappointed by this statement or the implication that TSU has not been responsive to any requests. TSU also has worked closely with students to ensure that students possess all information to aid them in making informed decisions about the financial aid and scholarship opportunities.
It is important to note that TSU is currently undergoing a search for a new President. The institution wants to ensure that legislators appreciate the impact any legislation affecting the institution’s governance structure may have on the university’s ability to attract top notch candidates for this crucially important position, maintain avenues for student success, continue to facilitate and enhance relationships with the business community, and avoid causing irreparable harm to Tennessee State University’s national reputation. Additionally, TSU continues to engage in constructive dialogue with lawmakers regarding the historic underfunding of the university.
TSU will continue to work to ensure that students, faculty and staff at TSU enjoy the same opportunities and support experienced by students at the other Tennessee public institutions of higher education.
Tennessee State University
Lundberg told News 2 he has strong support for the bill and believe it will pass.