Dr. Lesia Crumpton-Young
Dr. Lesia Crumpton-Young, president of Texas Southern University. Credit: Photo courtesy of TSU

The Texas Southern University Board of Regents plans to have a meeting June 15 to follow up on the next steps after the abrupt resignation of its president Dr. Lesia Crumpton-Young, after only two years in the role.

Crumpton-Young announced her decision to leave in a letter to the chair of the TSU Board of Regents stating that she was “called to expand my commitment to transforming lives by helping elevate HBCUs to a broader stage.”

On May 26, TSU Regent Chair Albert Myers released the following statement that said the board unanimously agreed to Crumpton-Young’s request to retire and has appointed Regent Mary Evans Sias to manage a transition oversight committee during this interim period.

There has been no word about whether the former president has secured a new position.

The sudden departure of the university’s esteemed leader shines a spotlight on the issues of turnover among leadership at Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and the potential implications for the future of TSU.

Unfinished business

With Crumpton-Young’s abrupt exit there are on-going questions about the direction the institution will go and what will become of the initiatives that are just at the beginning stages of growth.

“It’s demoralizing,” said Dr. Sydney Freeman, educational theorist and professor at the University of Idaho, whose areas of research includes the challenges in higher education, especially those faced by leadership in HCBUs. “There’s going to be faculty, students, staff and administrators who were going in a particular direction and now they’re being put on pause. And with the backdrop of state legislature, Black publicly-funded institutions need stable leadership in these hard times.”

The school is currently dealing with challenges including a student petition for demands for affordable, safe and sanitary housing options, along with two lawsuits. One of those lawsuits involves the TSU campus police chief who is fighting to keep her job while facing allegations of illegally increasing the salaries for officers. The second involves a former TSU law school dean alleging she was stripped of her role and tenure without reason.

As far as funding, TSU made a bold ask for nearly a billion dollars this year from state lawmakers during the 2023 legislative session to expand its academic, research and health and safety initiatives, but results did not bear fruit.

Accomplishment during tenure

Crumpton-Young joined the university at a very critical time, addressing past issues around admission scandal allegations and funding. In a Defender exclusive interview, Crumpton-Young had a number of goals set at the beginning of her tenure including strengthening community partnerships, preparing students for the competitive job market and elevating its R2 research status.

TSU recently announced its partnership with Rice University to capitalize on shared resources and best practices for strengthening both institutions. The university collaborated with the city of Houston to open a two-acre flight training facility to expand the HBCUs’ aviation program for potential industry workers, as well as launching a new College of Transdisciplinary Studies aimed at helping students who left college before to return and earn their degrees.

Freeman says there are some key factors HBCUs should consider as far as retention of leadership and made reference to an opinion piece titled “A Warning to Anyone Thinking About Being the Next TSU President” written by Dillard University president Walter Kimbrough.

Freeman stated that in order for the institution to thrive, the entire board must be replaced.

“We don’t know all the details regarding the president’s departure, but that goes to show that there must be something deeper within the history of board leadership that needs to be examined. It’s hard to say without knowing more information.”

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...