The students at Tennessee State University want what’s owed to them. In September, it was reported the state of Tennessee owed the HBCU $2.1 billion over the past 30 years. The report found that 16 states were underfunding HBCUs, with the amount owed to TSU at the top of the list.
Recently, Derrell Taylor, TSU Student Government Association president, spoke to rolling out about the debt and what message he would give to billionaire alumna Oprah Winfrey to help the university.
Over $2 billion is owed to TSU. What can that amount of money do to improve the campus?
I think [it would improve] just the quality of our experience.
Governor [Bill] Lee has been gracious enough to help us out with receiving half of the money that [TSU president] Dr. [Glenda] Glover has determined we’ve been owed, so that was half of the $544 million. With that, we’ve already seen so many improvements on campus with just $240 million. So just with that, we’ve been able to see a lot of our auditoriums renovated, we’ve seen our cafeteria renovated. So I’m like, “Wow, if you had all this, then maybe our dorms could look good. We have a brand-new residence facility, we could have all of our residence halls look that way, right?”
It’s the same thing with the brand-new health science building. I believe that opened in 2021, or 22, but imagine if all of our academic programs had buildings that had that same level of just modern-day technology and form.
I think that’s important. I feel like we’ve sacrificed a lot because we value an HBCU experience. However, as HBCU students, we still deserve quality resources in a quality environment. So it could have affected a lot, certainly.
What was your first reaction when you heard this news?
I was pretty shocked. I immediately ran to Google, of course, and just tried to find the original source, find the letter. And then the president, Dr. Glover, emailed the letter out to the students later that day. It was pretty, I don’t know, I would say baffling to just see that, actually read and see the literature actually explain we’ve been underfunded so significantly. Then, I think the most surprising part of it was that our university is No. 1 in that. So that was huge.
Has Oprah Winfrey said anything about the situation?
I hope she’s aware. I hope she plans to say something. I haven’t heard anything so far, but I’m sure she’s concerned about this, as of course, she’s an alumna,
What’s your message to Oprah if she’s watching this right now?
Help us. Raise some awareness. Let your counterparts know. Oprah has a lot of a lot of weight within her industry and within the world overall. So I think someone of that caliber bringing awareness to this would really help us gain a different aspect of support.