Southern Football Player Questions Student, Campus Leadership in Open Letter

A Southern University football player has called out administration and students for a growing sense of apathy on campus, particularly around the issue of capital and budget priorities.

Published on the The Rouge Collection, senior tailback Lenard Tillery questions the commitment of Southern student leadership and the student body in holding leaders accountable. The letter was made public before a scheduled study body vote for the Gateway Project; a revitalization initiative for a primary campus entrance. From the letter:

The Gateway project “is significant to Southern University to enhance not only the entrance but the overall image of Southern University.” Maybe to outsiders. There are many ways to improve the image of SU: modernizing the campus, renovating or tearing down the abandoned buildings, and providing upkeep and renovations to the buildings around campus. The F.G. Clark activity center (mini dome) hosts games, events and fellowship for Southern and many other organizations around the state. Yet the inside is outdated and the outside needs immediate attention. Dirty roofs and stained glasses are the first things you see when you cross the hump. The campus looks bland and stuck in the 1900’s. The inside of the majority of buildings need repair and upkeep. Leaky roofs, moldy walls, sewage backup and broken sprinkler systems plague the buildings of our campus and it was reported that 21 of 140 buildings at Southern University have life safety code deficiencies.

The letter underscores a report issued last month by the Louisiana State Auditor, which detailed decades of deferred maintenance funding and budgets cuts which have left a sizable portion of campus building unusable or out of health and access standards.

Tillery, a Baton Rouge native and former walk-on who last year became Southern’s all-time leading rusher, called for students to assume a bigger role in campus governance and advocacy:

It is time for students to stop assuming that the problems that we experience on a daily are noticed by the higher ups of our university. They are focused on the large-scale issues, we must bring to their attention the concerns of the student body. The only way to bring about change is to make it our initiative! We assume that the “higher ups” are knowledgeable of our issues. We assume that they are working fervently to resolve these issues. We assume that we are all looking for the same change. We must stop assuming and start advocating for change that will increase retention. Change that will motivate students to take pride in their university. Change that will motivate students to become active. Change that will last. Change that will make alumni proud and willing to give back without the fear of their money being “lost”. We must stop looking for the next person to take action and realize this is our burden to bear!

Students will vote for funding of the Gateway Project today on the Baton Rouge campus.