By Lucas Johnson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — A search will begin early next year for a permanent president for Tennessee State University, state Board of Regents Chancellor John Morgan said Friday.
Morgan spoke to reporters following the board’s quarterly meeting at Nashville State Community College.
About 20 protesters opposed to academic changes to the university rallied outside the community college, with some holding signs reading “Save TSU,” and “Start Search for Permanent President of TSU Now.” Some protesters were also outside the college the day before, according to The Tennessean.
Tennessee State Interim President Portia Holmes Shields has been reorganizing academic departments and eliminating some degree programs that have only a few graduates in an effort to turn around the struggling historically black university.
Morgan said Shields is doing a good job and was brought in to put the university in a position to do a national search.
He said Shields was asked to focus mainly on helping the school with its accreditation — which is in danger — and the handling of business processes that involve student financial aid and enrollment.
“The combination of accreditation and really working on the processes on that campus, we believe will get Tennessee State in a position to be a very attractive location for the very best leadership that a national search would result in,” Morgan told The Associated Press on Friday.
The university estimates that eliminating half a dozen smaller majors will save $400,000 a year. Opponents question the savings and the impact of eliminating programs, like Africana studies, that they see as an intrinsic part of the university.
Gertrude Scruggs was among the protesters who took a bus from Memphis. The 79-year-old, who graduated from Tennessee State in 1954, said her main concern is when the presidential search will start.
When a permanent president is in place, she said, “then we can begin to build Tennessee State back up, because Tennessee State has been great all over the world.”
Morgan said he hopes to have someone in place permanently by the middle of next year.
As for the changes being made at Tennessee State, Morgan said the university is not alone.
“All of our campuses are going through significant efforts to restructure, to reorganize, to reinvent the way they deliver service in a way that really tries to align resources that will really result in students’ success,” he said. “So it’s not anything different at TSU.”