By Ron Weathersby
Why is it that anytime a dramatic crime takes place in North Nashville the so-called mainstream media here nearly always say it happened “near TSU?” It is getting redundant, is an insult to Nashville’s black community and seems to be another thinly veiled attack on the state’s only publicly funded HBCU.
The continued use of “near TSU” when identifying crime scenes in North Nashville takes place in the region’s daily newspaper and even on the area’s television news casts. By contrast we never read or hear of crimes taking place “near Vanderbilt” or “near Belmont.”
Although we do not wish this negative connotation on any of our city’s distinguished institutions we have to seriously question why TSU is nearly universally associated with violent crime in North Nashville. By contrast, last fall a national publication, Business Insider ranked the most dangerous colleges in the country by averaging FBI crime data per capita from 2008 to 2011 for schools with enrollment over 10,000. Schools were ranked based on a combination of violent crime rank and property crime rank, with violent crime weighted four times higher. Astonishingly Vanderbilt ranked the fifth most dangerous school on that list. TSU was nowhere to be found. However viewers and readers of the popular newspaper and broadcast news in the area never read about nor heard that story.
The indiscriminate use of “near TSU” in identifying crime scenes arguably has had a negative impact on the school. Why would parents of college-aged students want their children to attend a college apparently in a near war zone according to the local media reports? Enrollment at the school has been stagnant at best.
Business development around the school has been stunted also. Colleges spawn retail development to meet the needs of students, faculty and staff but the area surrounding TSU has few full service restaurants and no entertainment venues, clubs or bars that traditionally sprout up near college campuses nationwide. Likewise the historic campus is not a tourist destination.
The Tribune should not be alone in our condemnation of this practice. Where is the mayor, our state and local elected officials in this fight? Why haven’t the members of the TBR spoken out about this consistent association of TSU to crime?
Our media has taken the lead in promoting everything positive about our great city but somehow this long, endless attack on TSU’s image continues. We believe that all news should be reported but we are weary of hearing and seeing nothing but negative stories about TSU and the neighborhood in which it resides. Why does the Tennessean actively promote and lead the cheers for controversial and costly municipal projects and policies while always finding something negative to report about TSU even when TSU has nothing to do with the negative story?
Although our major media outlets are obsessed with reporting about crime in North Nashville there has to be a more equitable way to report about crime in the black community than to always say it happened “near TSU.”
North Nashville needs attention but not in this vain. The area is literally rife with social and economic needs that go unaddressed in the government and the media. Where are the editorials championing employment programs for the residents in the area? How can our media commend government give-aways to huge corporations but ignore the necessity of jumpstarting investment in North Nashville? What is the ratio of good stories to negative stories about North Nashville in the mass media?
TSU also needs attention and deserves better. There are wonderful things happening on campus and there are literally thousands of great stories taking place on the campus of TSU weekly. Millions of dollars of research grants have been awarded to TSU. Young people from TSU are making a positive contribution to our society. Professors are being recognized by international groups yet we continually and obsessively hear and read about crimes taking place “near TSU.”
Nashville has been celebrated and honored internationally for our diversity, our social and political leadership, our contributions to culture, our growth as a global business center and, our institutions of higher learning. However, it seems to us and many others that the regional media attempts at every turn to tear down our one shining example of public higher education in our city.
TSU exemplifies the hopes, dreams and promise of our great city. We believe that instead of attaching negative stereotypes to the school our media should tout TSU as it does Vanderbilt and other schools in the area.
Too many times it seems we are charged with using the race card, a phrase made popular during the trial of a famous football player nearly twenty years ago. However, in the history of Tennessee and Nashville we have not utilized the race card nearly as often as the folks who incessantly have sought to and it seems, still seek to marginalize one-third of the area’s population. There is more happening in North Nashville besides crime and poverty and TSU stands as one of the beacons of hope and promise in our community. As parents protect their children, we will continue to defend TSU because of its historic and current status not only here in Nashville but globally.
There have been far too many attacks. There have been far too many innuendos. And now the clincher, the use of the phrase, “near TSU” has to stop. Rather than malign the institution we have chosen to uplift it. TSU means far too much to us than to sit quietly like our so-called leadership and let this superior institution continually be placed into an equation consisting of crime and all its residual maladies.
For over a century white Tennessee and white Nashville has sought to marginalize and in some cases disrupt the mission of the state’s extraordinary publicly financed HBCU. Yes there are severe social and economic challenges that must be addressed in North Nashville. There are ordeals TSU must address also. However, it’s time for all of us, the governor, the mayor, the TBR, state and local legislators, the Chamber of Commerce, NAACP, Urban League, the Ministerial Alliance and, the local mainstream media to stand up and finally say once and for all, “Leave TSU out of the equation!”