Dear TSU Family:
As alumni of Texas Southern University, it is extremely important that you are kept well informed. You may have heard about a bill (HB2383) that was filed last week in the Texas House of Representatives. HB2383 proposes a separation of TSU's Thurgood Marshall School of Law (TMSL) from Texas Southern University. It is important to note that there were no discussions with TSU's administration or Board of Regents prior to the filing of this bill.
Likewise, TSU is unaware of any plans or discussions among state legislators regarding TSU becoming part of a university system, which we understand to be the rationale behind this bill. TSU is very proud of its history as an independent public university - one of just four in Texas (in addition to Midwestern State University, Stephen F. Austin State University, and Texas Woman's University). From a fiscal perspective, TSU has made tremendous strides in the past several years, including our latest Moody's ratings, which give the University a "stable outlook" due to our financial practices, healthy reserve, days cash on hand, and a capital expenditure plan that is updating and modernizing the university in substantial ways.
For numerous reasons, the University respectfully does not support this bill:
TMSL remains a critical part of the University, not only due to its historical role in the founding of TSU, but its responsibility in producing the largest number of African American lawyers of any law school in Texas.
More than 40 years ago, the Texas Legislature designated TSU as a "special purpose institution of higher education for urban programming." This bill would detract from that designation.
TSU fiscally supports all aspects of the law school; TMSL would be challenged to operate independent of the University.
TMSL is making progress toward full compliance of several American Bar Association standards that were found to be in violation in 2015 and 2016, and it has achieved complete remediation of one standard. This progress is due largely to the ongoing support, guidance and oversight of TSU's administrative team, TMSL faculty, staff, students and alumni. The ABA has recognized the progress that has been made, and TSU plans to exceed their expectations over the next two years.
We must not let this bill distract the University, our supporters, and state lawmakers from our current legislative priorities, which were created in collaboration with our many constituencies. As I shared with you last week, we are at a critical juncture with regard to these priorities, which are as follows:
1) First, the University seeks $4 million to implement initiatives such as Pathways to Success & Completion.
2) Second, the University seeks $12 million for infrastructure support.
3) Third, TSU seeks $4 million to better support our College of Pharmacy.
4) Finally, the University supports House Bill 1516, authored by Representative Coleman, and Senate Bill 1198, authored by Senator Miles, which seek to remove an expiration clause from the TSU athletics fee, allowing the University to continue to maintain and enhance its athletics programs.
We are excited to share that, because of the University's recent enrollment increases, TSU is proposed to receive a gain in its state appropriations by 2.7 percent for its operations support in the introduced bills from the Senate and House.
TSU is extremely proud of its law school. In addition to its long history of success, in the past year TMSL has received several national awards and recognitions, including a third consecutive top three finish and Best Advocate Award at the National Mock Trial Inter-Law School competition, 2018-19 rankings by PreLaw Magazine in the "Best Law Schools for Employment" and "Best Specialties - Criminal Law," and a #2 "Most Diverse" ranking by National Jurist. Additionally, more than a dozen TMSL graduates were newly elected in November to county judgeships throughout the state of Texas.
Certainly, we would welcome a bill providing additional funding for TMSL, which would allow us to hire more faculty and staff to support our students. The existing formula has never been adequate in this regard.
You are important ambassadors for our great Texas Southern University. As such, we feel it is important to provide you with a response from the University regarding this bill. Should you have any questions or concerns about this matter, please do not hesitate to reach out.
As always, GO TIGERS!
Dr. Austin A. Lane
Texas Southern University