Sen. Summerville In Hot Water After Controversial Email
Photo: Tennessee General Assembly
By Emily Luxen
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Members of the Tennessee Black Caucus are speaking out after receiving a scathing email from state Senator Jim Summerville.
The email read, "I don't give a rat's (expletive) what the Black Caucus thinks."
It was sent to state Representative Barbara Cooper, D-Memphis, and was then forwarded to members of the Black Caucus. It was referring to a report from black lawmakers on the recent grading controversy at Tennessee State University.
"It was unprofessional, completely unnecessary, and it shows disregard for the Tennessee Black Caucus and the work we do," said state Representative Brenda Gilmore, D-Nashville.
Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham announced Summerville would be replaced immediately. In a statement, she said, "I am very disappointed in the unfortunate choice of words and tone used by Senator Summerville in responding to Representative Cooper. There is a standard of courtesy that must be observed by members of the General Assembly, and this went beyond what is acceptable."
Representative Gilmore said she appreciates the quick action, but more needs to be done.
"In my mind, two more things need to happen," said Representative Gilmore, "He needs to apologize to the Black Caucus, and the report he issued needs to be completely expunged."
Senator Summerville oversaw a Senate Subcommittee on Higher Education hearing that investigated claims TSU staffers inappropriately changed grades of some students. The subcommittee found no evidence of academic fraud, but blamed the problems on "poor communication and a series of missteps." TSU has been formally cleared of allegations of grade-fixing.
Representative Gilmore said Senator Summerville invited members of the Black Caucus to the hearing, and asked for their input, but then ignored the report they submitted.
"I think the whole overtone of the hearing and report, as well as his comments, take on a racist tone," she said.