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Texas Southern Advisory Panel Says Strict Oversight Needed


Financially troubled Texas Southern University needs a revamped board of regents, a new mission and strict oversight by the state auditor, according to recommendations released Monday by a governor-appointed advisory panel.

The panel also suggests the Legislature provide emergency funding to the Houston college through the 2007 fiscal year and recommends it give quarterly financial reports to the board of regents, Gov. Rick Perry’s office and the Legislative Audit Committee.

If the panel’s advice is followed, TSU will remain an independent institution and not, as some have suggested, incorporated into the University of Texas, University of Houston or Texas A&M systems.

“Our recommendations focus on fixing the fiscal flaws that have undermined the ability of TSU to deliver a quality education, and providing a framework for success in the future that preserves the institution’s autonomy while also refocusing on stricter financial oversight of the institution’s taxpayer and tuition dollars,” TSU advisory committee chairman Glenn Lewis said in a statement.

Perry created the panel in January after a series of reports revealed a pattern of financial mismanagement at the 60-year-old school. A report by TSU’s interim chief financial officer last year outlined overspending, missing purchase orders and poor financial projections. It highlighted flooded basements in several buildings and said the athletic program was $2 million over budget.

Last summer, the regents fired President Priscilla Slade after an investigation found she spent more than $260,000 in school money, allegedly to decorate her own home. Slade, who denies wrongdoing, faces an August trial on two charges of criminally misusing university money for her private benefit. Two other ex-TSU employees also face charges related to the improper use of school funds.

The school currently has an interim president.

In an interview Monday with The Associated Press, Lewis stopped short of calling for a new board of regents, suggesting Perry “reconstitute” the panel. He said some board members may not have served long enough to be considered culpable for the school’s problems.

“We want a board that will provide more oversight for the president and for the administration,” Lewis said.

That board, the panel said, should work with the TSU administration and higher education coordinating board to establish a new mission.

David Diaz, a Corpus Christi lawyer and TSU graduate who sits on the nine-member board of regents, said the board has a few vacancies because of recent term expirations, and Perry should use those openings to find “humdingers” for new regents.

Diaz, first appointed to the board in 2001 and reappointed in 2005, said the other members like himself have learned their lessons and begun to scrutinize financial matters like never before.

“I feel I have a good grasp of what’s going on now,” Diaz said. “… I don’t think (Perry) should waste any time looking at the tenured regents.”

Diaz said he’s proposing that some degrees be consolidated and some new degree programs be monitored closely to make sure demand is there.

Perry said in a statement he looked forward to reviewing the report and working with the lieutenant governor, speaker of the house and board of regents “to address these important issues.”

The 11-member advisory panel was composed of educators, officials and community leaders, including former University of Texas President Larry Faulkner, state higher education Commissioner Raymund Paredes and NCAAP Texas President Gary Bledsoe.

The historically black campus has an enrollment of about 11,000 students and is the alma mater of the late U.S. Rep. Barbara Jordan and other notables.

–Associated Press


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