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Tennessee State Capitol Building

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School leaders at Tennessee State University are hosting a national press conference to address the recent extremist Republican legislatures across the country that are attacking and defunding historically black colleges and universities. 

The press conference, which will take place this Monday, April 1, at 11 a.m. CST, will include national faith and civil rights leaders such as Bishop William J. Barber, II, Latosha Brown, Rev. Dr. Frederick Douglass Haynes III, Tamika Mallory and Roland Martin. 

It will be located at the Rotunda of the Tennessee State Capitol, 600 Dr. Martin L King Jr. Blvd, in Nashville, Tennessee.

The event was organized after Tennessee’s Senate Education Committee voted to vacate the TSUs board of directors and allow Republican Gov. Bill Lee to appoint eight new members to the 10-member body.

According to ABC News, the TSU trustees were removed this week under legislation signed into law by Gov. Lee despite major pushback from Black lawmakers and community leaders. Gov. Lee also said he already selected the new replacements.

“I’m pleased to appoint these highly qualified individuals who will work alongside administrators and students to further secure TSU’s place as a leading institution,” Lee said.

Republicans have targeted the school for years through multiple state audits, which they claim revealed student housing shortages, unsustainable scholarship increases and lingering financial discrepancies.

But Democrats and community leaders say the university’s financial woes are in part due to the school being extremely underfunded.

According to a press release from Repairers of the Breach, a 2023 Biden administration study shows that TSU is owed over $2.1 billion in state funds that have been held back since 1987. The study shows how historic land grant colleges are being attacked and underfunded by Republican legislators across the United States.

“These same state legislatures are also suppressing the vote, attacking women’s rights, and refusing to raise the minimum wage while undermining HBCUs, which have a long history of promoting equality for all people, the press release read. “While President Biden, Vice President Harris and progressive congressional leaders have taken action to get more resources to HBCUs, extremist-led state legislatures like this one in Tennessee are trying to dismantle HBCU leadership and disenfranchise these schools by holding back critical funding.”

TSU press conference board of trustees

During Monday’s press conference, student leaders will engage faith leaders, civil rights advocates, as well as the audience on the best ways to mobilize action.

Some of those steps include calling on Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee and Republicans in the legislature to stop the unfounded and overreaching attacks on TSU, mobilizing alumni and supporters to defend HBCUs, calling on all people of goodwill to challenge attacks by Republicans in state legislatures, demand equitable funding after years of underfunding and to mobilize voting power to challenge state legislatures. 


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