Protesters in Nashville hold a press conference to protest state repubilicans voting to vacate the entire board of HBCU Tennessee State University.

The Attacks on HBCUs Extend Beyond Tennessee

We know Republicans hate diversity. We see attacks on everything from voting rights to DEI initiatives to teaching accurate American history in schools. Education is, of course, a favorite target for the GOP. In the state of Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee just dissolved the board at the state’s only HBCU, Tennessee State University. The narrative Lee and his fellow Republicans are pushing is that TSU has been suffering from major financial mismanagement. Their only solution is to replace the board of trustees of the state’s  only public historically Black college. However, there claims are not accurate.

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A recent audit revealed that NO fraud or malfeasance occurred under the school’s leadership. In actuality, the school has been criminally underfunded for decades. According to the Biden-Harris administration, TSU has been underfunded by about $2 billion, the largest amount of any HBCU. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona said in a statement, “Unacceptable funding inequities have forced many of our nation’s distinguished historically Black colleges and universities to operate with inadequate resources and delay critical investments in everything from campus infrastructure to research and development to student support services.”

The State’s GOP-controlled House voted 66-25 to vacate the 10 board members, which was then signed into law by Republican Governor Bill Lee. Gov. Lee then appointed new trustees for the board. Officials from TSU released a statement saying, “We believe this legislation will disrupt our students’ educational pursuits, harm the image of the University, and remove a Board that had achieved success in its enhanced governance of TSU.”

A new board has been appointed, but what has this all been for anyway? To make HBCUs look bad. That’s the goal. Tennessee Republicans, like most Republicans, love to create and/or exacerbate problems and then blame others for their failures. Maybe that could have a little something to do with these alleged issues facing the university. TSU needs public funding to operate successfully, as do all public HBCUs. 

This is just another example of Republicans attacking education and using it as a ground zero for their anti-diversity crusades. For example, Tennessee is one of ten states that has enacted laws banning diversity, equity and inclusion policies in colleges. Getting rid of DEI, and heavily underfunding HBCUs, are all part of a larger plan. We cannot take Republicans for their word if and when they try to make it seem like anything else is at play here. 

Another important part to this is that elections DO matter. We keep saying this because it’s so true. Governors have a lot of power in this situation. For example, MAGA maniacs like Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appoint anti-DEI trustees who will do whatever they ask. By appointing sycophantic trustees, conservatives can continue infiltrating education with their right-wing extremist talking points. We cannot let this go unnoticed because what happened at TSU is just the beginning. 

We must also take a step back and realize why they want to do these things in the first place. Why are Republicans so threatened by diversity, equity, and inclusion? It’s because they don’t want people learning the hard truths of this country. Because of the public is educated about structural racism and inequities, then they won’t vote for the people who keep these racist institutions in place. All of this is connected and we have to be proactive in combating it. 

(featured image: screenshot/FOX Nashville)


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