By Jeffrey L. Boney
Special to the Outlook from NNPA
The Black Lives Matter Movement isn’t the only movement that has created a hashtag that has caught on like a wildfire amongst young, Black people – at least not Black youth in Houston.
Texas Southern University (TSU) students have started a movement called #TakeBackTxSU, calling the university to task for what they consider to be a lack of concern for student issues, and more importantly, for what they believe is an attempt by the current administration to abandon the roots of TSU as a Historically Black College and University (HBCU).
The Movement and hashtag, #TakeBackTxSU, were created by Christina Letsinger, a junior, studying communications at TSU.
She believes TSU has become extremely divided, and that the university should not be, especially with it being an HBCU.
“The hashtag, #TakeBackTxSU, was not to bash or disrespect TSU or its administration,” said Letsinger. “It was created because we love TSU and we want to see it prosper. We have to come together and stick together because WE ARE ONE TSU.”
Letsinger states the three reasons she created the hashtag were to: (1) bring back the culture and tradition to the TSU campus that has been stripped from TSU by the current administration; (2) shed light on issues like financial aid, housing, lack of technology, building maintenance; and (3) unite TSU back to one school.
“Being that we are an HBCU, it does not make me feel good that our culture and traditions are being taken away and covered up,” said Letsinger. “We’re proud to be an HBCU and these issues must be addressed and no longer ignored or pushed under the rug by this administration.”
Many of the students at TSU have taken to social media to show solidarity and their support for the movement by sharing the hashtag, along with other memes and messages for all to see.
The local NAACP chapter tweeted its support for the Movement, saying:
“NAACP supports the #TakeBackTxSU movement. We are in full support of bringing back the heritage and culture of our HBCU.”
Other students and alumni have shared their grievances and concerns about the current administration’s handling of TSU and its legacy. One of the biggest concerns was a recruitment video that was produced and released by TSU administrators that featured several TSU students – none of the students on the recruitment video for this HBCU were African American, however.
One concerned person, ladyoliviamd, wrote on social media:
“Currently, Texas Southern University’s administration is systematically eliminating the history and the culture that a Historically Black College and University encompasses, particularly the essence of TSU and community presence that the school has in Third Ward, Houston, Texas, and masking it with the claims of increasing the school’s diversity. I am very disappointed that the students are wanting and fighting to preserve the legacy of TSU more than the administration. The most recent recruitment video TSU released did not have one person of color in the video, President Rudley has on numerous occasions taken away what makes TSU, like the removal of the organization trees on the yard as well as painting over murals of the great painter John T. Biggers as well as his students. We cannot allow this Poisonous Administration to destroy Texas Southern University. I challenge Alumni, Faculty and Staff, and students to speak up against the wrongs of the current administration.”
In response to the Movement, TSU officials released a statement:
“Students are a top priority in every aspect of our operations at Texas Southern University. The university administration is taken aback by the flurry of social media surrounding issues that have occurred at the beginning of this semester. TSU Administrators are aware that members of the Student Government Association have a campus peer meeting scheduled for Monday, September 21. We will trust this process and will be prepared to meet with student leaders at the conclusion of that assembly. The TSU Administration welcomes and values student opinions. We will listen to concerns posed by the student body and, in turn, work toward a resolution. We remain…OneTSU.”
The TSU Student Government Association (SGA) released a statement:
“Student Government Association leaders at Texas Southern University are meeting to discuss student matters. TSU students are asking that members of the media respect their privacy as they work out a path toward resolution with university administrators, and do not want the tone and tenor of their meeting distracted by cameras and microphones. The majority of TSU students do not support actions taken by a few last week to point fingers at the administration for some issues that may have been the fault of the students in question. SGA leaders will listen to all concerns from the student body and then meet with university administration to resolve critical problems.”
Texas Southern University SGA President Crystal Owens chimed in with her thoughts.
“We love our university and we know that our administrators will do whatever it takes for students to receive the best possible education and support,” said Owens. “We are One TSU and will emerge in a better place after this dialogue.
The TSU SGA meeting was held on Monday, and students came together to share their myriad of concerns. After the meeting, several students chimed in about the Movement and their efforts.
“I am in support of restoring TSU’s heritage and tradition,” said TSU student Anthony Collier.
“I feel that #TakeBackTxSU is mainly trying to address that TSU has lost its spirit and we want it back, said TSU student Tierra Mayes.
“This movement is not student led, it’s not SGA led, it’s God led. What’s done in the dark comes to light,” said TSU student Kaleb J. Taylor.
TSU senior Jerry Ford believes that the TSU administration is in a tough situation because they are struggling to get funding and is at the mercy of the state of Texas.
“Because TSU alumni does not give back at the same rate as the alumni of a predominately White institution, the TSU administration has tried to counter that by white washing the university to attract a different type of student,” said Ford. “I would like to see a more conscious effort at trying to attract the top African American students while also providing a diverse education. TSU has attempted to remove the HBCU tag during down financial times in hope of changing the image. I want the administration to embrace the school’s culture and actively recruit people of color instead of pushing us out. I want the administration to strive to become the best HBCU, with the likes of Morehouse and Howard. Improving one’s image doesn’t mean putting non-color faces on billboards. You can have Black faces on billboards and still have a good image. If our own HBCU is too embarrassed to recruit and educate Black students, who should we look to that will?”
Ford believes that the #TakeBackTxSU Movement was an eye-opener for the current administration and the beginning of a conscientious change amongst Black students at TSU and hopefully across the country.
“Imagine if a historically predominant White school, with a 90 percent White population started releasing recruitment videos of only Black students,” said Ford. “What if that same predominately White school started to then intentionally erase the culture of that White college which is full of history and tradition, in order to resemble an HBCU so they can get more funding? Would that improve their schools image? Of course not. Now you understand what #TakeBackTxSU is all about.”
Ford, who got offered admission to an Ivy League school out of high school, decided to stay home and play college baseball at Texas Southern University – an HBCU – simply because he wanted to have the HBCU experience during his undergrad years.
Ford and many others are hoping that qualified Black students aren’t being ignored and overlooked because of the current focus of this administration