Tennessee State Fails on Terra Strong, Incomplete Grade Irony
The Tennessee State Board of Regents cleared Tennessee State University of any wrong doing in its case of mass incomplete grades changed for students against faculty will. TSU, which adamantly defended against any wrongdoing in their change of more than 100 students’ final grades in introductory courses, was vindicated in the Board’s report to a state Senate investigation panel this evening.
Good for Tennessee State, but a remarkable contradiction in the university’s approach with Terra Strong, a TSU senior who was stripped of the title of Miss Tennessee State University, in part, because of an incomplete grade that left her one credit short of the 12-credit semester requirement necessary to run for the position.
Strong says that she was advised by her instructor to accept an incomplete to receive a better grade in another attempt. That decision cost her the title and a legitimate sense of humiliation amongst her peers.
100 TSU students completing remedial coursework but not fulfilling all of their requirements were given a chance to make up the work, and to receive the grade they eventually earned. Never mind that the students didn’t do all of the work required of them – they were graded on the work they submitted, and the merit of that work.
Tennessee State has a proud tradition of bringing students from good to better, and better to best. But for Strong, a duly elected student leader who met the academic qualifications to run for one of the university’s most prestigious offices, the university allowed no make up, no chance to keep a rightfully-earned position with rightfully-earned credit hours.
Her earned merit to be Miss TSU wasn’t good enough to retain her crown.
The student handbook suggests that Strong has little case to make against the revocation of her crown. So far, Tennessee State’s Board and the state’s Board of Regents have denied or refused to hear her appeals of the university’s decision. The letter of the law may not be on her side, but certainly Strong did not violate the spirit of the law – that students’ academics shouldn’t suffer in the name of campaigning for a student leadership position.
Tennessee State worked hard to defend itself from faculty and legislative inquiry about the spirit behind changing students’ grades. The university wanted to be judged not on bending its own rules, but on its effort to improve the lives of deserving students. TSU ducked a major legislative bullet tonight, and will probably maintain that it was right all along.
It sucks that Terra Strong, a senior with years of investment in the student body and the legacy of student leadership at TSU, will likely leave the university with no will to give back or pride in her HBCU experience. She’ll maintain that the Tennessee State University was wrong to allow one course to change her perspective on alma mater and allegiance amongst her own people.
And for the rest of her life, she’ll be right.