By Ronald W. Weathersby
Mild-mannered legislator’s terse email to the Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators is cited as reason for demotion.
Tennessee State Senator Jim Summerville (R-Dickson) who chaired a recent state Senate panel investigating allegations of grade fixing at Tennessee State University was stripped of his position today by Senator Delores Gresham (R–Somerville) who chairs the full Education Committee.
Summerville was under attack by the Black Caucus Chairman Democratic Rep. Barbara Cooper of Memphis. He has also been under severe pressure to manage a volatile situation which centered on allegations that TSU administrators changed nearly 300 grades of students who took Math courses.
The black legislators sent Summerville a pointed email in which they questioned the rationale for the hearing.
“There were pertinent queries unanswered (at the hearing) particularly, why the Senate Sub-Committee chose TSU and how many other institutions are listed for an inquiry,” Cooper wrote.
Summerville who had a brief but courteous exchange with Cooper during the hearing answered the email in an uncharacteristic manner
“I don’t give a rat’s a_ _ what the black caucus thinks,” Summerville wrote.
In her letter Cooper said the hearing was “much to do about nothing” and seemed to question Summerville’s motives for holding the hearing which was approved by Gresham.
“How long can TSU continue to endure this negative publicity? It seems that the complainants, very competent high level experts in their field of educational attainment should honor the greatness of TSU and think about harm to the students first, respect leadership and follow the rules, regulations and guidelines. When “I Gotcha” tactics are used, the administration, instructors, staff, students and alumni are affected, greatly diminishing the reputation of TSU.”
The statement released by Gresham reads, “I am very disappointed in the unfortunate choice of words and tone used by Senator Summerville in responding to Rep. Cooper. There is a standard of courtesy that must be observed by members of the General Assembly and this went beyond what is acceptable. He has been removed as the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee Chairman.”