We’ve seen Twitter rants from the best of them, but former Texas Southern University president Dr. John Rudley really surprised us all when he used social media to air out his grievances and problems he says he faced leading the HBCU. His “Twitter rant,” ruffled more than a few feathers, and maybe that is exactly what he intended to do — just before the release of his upcoming book.
Rudley, who served as TSU president from 2008 – 2016, refers to his term as “tumultuous,” and detailed some of his experiences in a series of Tweets.
Beginning with his very first tweet on Sept. 27, introducing himself, he dove right into what he was feeling.
Rudley complained that running a Historically Black College and University (HBCU) was extremely problematic and listed issues, he said, he faced and solved.
Rudley also announced that he would be revealing more details in a soon-to-be-released book, free from censorship.
In my book you will read my point of view which I can finally express without worrying about being politically correct.
— Dr. John M. Rudley (@DrJohnRudley) October 11, 2016
While his tweets tell his version of the story, what about the students, who felt that Rudley was hell-bent on taking the “B” out of the HBCU experience?
One of the first things Rudley got rid of after coming on board at TSU was the “open enrollment policy,” which did not require students to pass the ACT or SAT tests. Students were, however, required to take the ASSET test, assessing their college-readiness level.
The open policy provided many disadvantaged students the opportunity to seek a college degree, but critics say it undermined the school’s credibility and reputation, and added to the overall dropout rate. Critics also said that those who were allowed to enroll despite low test scores were ill-prepared for college and either lowered the quality of teaching and/ or the education of the student body overall.
Other complaints with the policy was that it opened the door for “financial aid bandits,” who used the lenient policy as a way to receive thousands of dollars in grants and student loans, then leave the university with no intention of returning. One of Rudley’s missions was to increase the graduation rate, and give the students more opportunities in the workforce.
But did his methods damage his mission? Did he go too far with the changes?
Some students say “yes,” and joined together to launch a #TakeBackTxSU movement.
The students were concerned about campus safety issues, outdated housing, morale and social activities, among other things and wanted change, but Rudley took it personal, even insinuating that professors at the university were teaching students to attack him on social media.
School of Communication professor Serbino Sandifer-Walker said that was never the case.
“When they go low, you go high,” Sandifer- Walker said. “Our goal was never to have students go on social media to attack the president. We taught them how to use social media responsibly and use it to empower, uplift and tell the truth. That’s what I teach them every single day. It can be detrimental to you.”
The students actually banned together on their own after Rudley dropped many traditions the students held near and dear to the HBCU experience.
One “drop” that got under many students’ skin was Rudley’s removal of the historic Greek trees highlighting the Tiger Walk and the courtyard, and an eyebrow-raising recruitment video which “dropped” or showed no African Americans caused outrage among the students.
School officials said the video was intended to show diversity on campus, but students said they missed the mark.
Nycole Hutchens, a reporter with TSU’s campus newspaper, said she applauded many of the improvements brought forth by Rudley, but just did not think he was the right fit for the campus.
“I find it disheartening that he decided to use Twitter to go on a rant for a desperate attempt for his book. While there were good things he did that were beneficial for the university, overall the student, faculty and staff satisfaction was low. Under his administration security was low, two shootings occurred and a student died. Students were homeless due to an influx of incoming students in 2015 that his administration poorly prepared for. The dorms were not opened in time,” Hutchens said. “In addition, he went out of his way to obliterate the legacy and culture at TSU. He took away historic Greek trees, removed John T. Biggers paintings and decided it was a good idea to omit black faces from marketing to appeal to the masses. From the looks of things, he was not fit to run an HBCU.”
Hutchens and other students were excited when Austin Lane took the helm as the new TSU president, and were equally excited to see their beloved Greek trees return.
Hutchens spoke to members of the Sigma organization as the restoration was underway.
So…. he say, she say…or who’s right or who’s wrong. We just know that the Twitterverse is not the way to come to a meeting of the minds. Hopefully Rudley, the students and the administrators can move on in peace – and work toward building the university — not breaking it down — PUBLICLY!
Check out more tweets of what Rudley had to say: