Education News

Ex-TSU President Lashes Out On Twitter About the Future of HBCUs

Former Texas Southern University President John Rudley lets loose on the future of HBCUs and says being a Black college leader is “one of the most stressful jobs in America.”


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John Rudley
John Rudley

The former president of Texas Southern University lashed out on Twitter earlier this month– singling out 12 key problems he faced while serving as the school's top leader.

John Rudley let loose on the state of Historically Black Colleges & Universities, or HBCUs – including threats to merge TSU with the University of Houston and on the impact declining revenue has on financial aid.

News 88.7's Eddie Robinson sat down with Rudley to further discuss some of the tweets and why Rudley calls being an HBCU President, "one of the most stressful jobs in America."

After serving as an Interim Chancellor and Interim President within the University of Houston system, John Rudley says it's clear that his previous work at UH, combined with his financial experience with the Tennessee Board of Regents, all helped lay the groundwork for his 9-year tenure as President of Texas Southern. But after a string of shootings on TSU's campus around late summer of 2015, Rudley says he became a target of criticism.

"I said to myself, I don't want to be in a situation where I'm going to be blamed for violence," says Rudley, "because we're an educational institution and my responsibilities are to try and provide a quality education for students. So it all came to together and hit me pretty hard. And I had two shootings on the campus in the 9 years that I was there, so people just started heaping on criticizing the president for everything possible. So I decided this probably wasn't a good look for me to continue."

He also started noticing that at other Black colleges, there was an unusually high turnover rate for presidents – not just at smaller schools, but also at large institutions – both public and private.

Rudley says this rapid turnover rate wasn't happening at other non-HBCUs.

"Continuity, I know, is important for traditional White institutions or any organization to keep your leadership in place," says the former TSU chief, "so that person's goals and objectives come to fruition. You change presidents after one, two, three or four years you got a problem, because a new person's going to come in and maybe start all over."

Rudley adds that the problems he experienced at TSU – such as lack of funding for campus infrastructure and limited access to (corporate) dollars for academic programs – were similar issues to what other HBCU's were facing.

He's looking to write a book about it all, but Rudley thinks the concept of a ‘handbook' would be more helpful for Black college leadership.

"I think that my other colleagues at Southern or Grambling or at other institutions – I think they need to speak up," Rudley said. "And I'm going to ask the national organization to pull together a panel of former Black college presidents and we should come together and we should talk about all of these issues and we should try to figure out how to help [each other] going forward."

He has much more to say – including his views on racial and political tensions between HBCU legislative board members, plus his take on how students are reacting to his tweets.

At this time, we've received no comment from Texas Southern University regarding the tweets.

There are a total of 107 HBCUs across the country, 9 schools located in Texas with two public, 4-year colleges in or near the Houston area — Texas Southern and Prairie View A&M University, respectively.

You can listen to an extended conversation with Rudley on Houston Matters this Thursday, October 27 at noon.

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Eddie Robinson

Eddie Robinson

Executive Producer & Host

A native of Mississippi, Eddie started his radio career as a 10th grader, working as a music jock for a 100,000-Watt (Pop) FM station and a Country AM station simultaneously. While Mississippi Governor Ray Mabus had nominated him for the U.S. Naval Academy in 1991, Eddie had an extreme passion...

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