After Backlash, Tennessee State University President Reverses Decision to Join CoreCivic Board
News media reported that TSU President Glenda Glover had decided to join the board as a director with an over $200,000 annual salary. A CoreCivic news release quoted Glover as saying she wanted to help African-Americans and be “an inside voice that can help CoreCivic realize the full potential of its purpose of helping people prepare for the next step in their lives.”
“As the daughter of a civil rights leader, it is my belief that I would be in a better position to help the population that needs it most by speaking from the boardroom where decisions are made,” said Glover.
But the reaction from community leaders was swift and fiercely critical of her for agreeing to join the board of a company that profits off of mass incarceration and the disproportionate imprisonment of Black people.
“There can be no (rational) position for such a decision,” tweeted the Rev. Davie Tucker, Jr., leader of Nashville’s Beech Creek Missionary Baptist Church, who said the initial announcement broke his heart. “I can’t believe that Dr. Glover and/or the people around her think this is a good move.”
“This is what we wanted her to do but I do think this is something we need to pay close attention to,” said Tequila Johnson, a TSU graduate who is the executive director of The Equity Alliance, referring to Glover’s change of heart.
“This needs to be a message to CoreCivic that you can’t cherry pick a Black person and stop us from calling for justice,” said Johnson. “They were essentially using Dr. Glover as a shield from accountability.”
Glover defended her initial decision to join the board in a February 19, 2021, Twitter message, saying she intended to use the position to help incarcerated Blacks, had negotiated CoreCivic-funded scholarships, and had planned to donate her board compensation to TSU. She also said that, “after listening to voices” that she trusted, she had reversed her decision to join.
CoreCivic came under a lot of pressure after Nashville city leaders severed ties with the company in 2020. In 2021, President Joe Biden announced the phasing out of federal Bureau of Prisons contracts with private prisons.
A statement by CoreCivic spokesperson Amanda Gilchrist said CoreCivic respected Glover’s decision not to join the board and hoped to partner with her in the future, saying she was “experiencing the impact of misinformation about our company and industry.”
Meanwhile, Thurgood Marshall, Jr. has been a member of the CoreCivic board of directors and served on the Nominating and Governance Committee since December 2002. Like his father, renowned Supreme Court Justice and FBI informant Thurgood Marshall, the first Black person appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, he is an attorney. He is a partner in the law firm of Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, LLP, and a Principal with ML Consulting. He previously served in the federal government as Cabinet Secretary to President Bill Clinton and Director of Legislative Affairs and Deputy Counsel to Vice President Al Gore.
Marshall has been on the board long enough to be the advocate for incarcerated Blacks that Glover claimed she wanted to be. Since this has not happened, one wonders whether Johnson was right about CoreCivic’s apparent attempt to “cherry pick a Black person” for the board to insulate it from criticism.
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