Wednesday, October 28, 2009
A recent Houston Chronicle report revealed that a long-simmering disagreement between broadcaster Tavis Smiley and Texas Southern University("TSU") ended Friday when the university's governing board agreed to strip Smiley's name from its communication school.
In 2004, Smiley promised to donate $1 million (at $200,000 a year for five years) and to raise another $1 million for TSU. The school later created the Tavis Smiley School of Communication in his honor.
Since then, though, Smiley has made one $50,000 donation in mid-2005 and raised $250,000 from three corporate donors. Still, he told the Chronicle on Friday that he had intended to fulfill his personal $1 million pledge. In an interview with the paper, he allegedly stated: “Any institution that turns away a $1 million gift in this economy, I think ought to have good reason for doing that.”
Smiley said former university President Priscilla Slade offered to name the school for him before he pledged any money. “I even made a joke, how much is this decision going to cost me?” he said. “She said, ‘This decision has already been made.'”
TSU President John Rudley said the dispute had been going on since he arrived on campus in early 2008.
Talks broke down last month after more than a year of negotiations, and Rudley informed Smiley the deal was off.
In a letter to Smiley dated September 28, Rudley wrote:
Because you did not fulfill your original commitment to our partnership, TSU plans to treat the partnership as being at an end. TSU will therefore remove your name from the School of Communication and the KTSU Radio facility to allow us to provide other major donors with the naming opportunity.
Smiley maintains that he stopped making the payments as agreed out of concern about mismanagement under the former university president. Slade was accused of using school money for personal expenses and fired in mid-2006. She eventually was sentenced to 10 years probation after a grand jury indicted her.
The controversy with Smiley has prompted TSU's regents to adopt a policy spelling out the circumstances under which it will consider naming a university building, college, endowed professorship or other program. Under this new policy, anyone interested in naming consideration for a college has to donate $10 million, with half in hand before the name change takes effect. Naming consideration for a department or school within a college would require a $2 million donation.