In an abrupt, yet not overly surprising move for those who have truly been following the TSU Board fiasco, TSU Regent Derrick Mitchell has resigned from the TSU Board of Regents, effective immediately.
The University immediately removed Mitchell’s bio from the website as soon as the announcement was made.
Mitchell, who was appointed to the TSU Board of Regents in 2015 by former Texas Governor Greg Abbott, and was voted by his peers to serve as TSU Board Chairman that same year, was instrumental in helping bring former TSU President Dr. Austin Lane to the University.
Prior to his resignation, Mitchell was very vocal about his disapproval of how the TSU Board handled Dr. Lane, in what Dr. Lane called a “witch hunt” prior to his departure.
Mitchell steadfastly stood up for Dr. Lane, who parted ways with the University via a sizeable settlement this past February after being found to have committed no wrongdoing according to the TSU Board’s attorney. Mitchell consistently challenged his colleagues on the TSU Board, especially publicly during Board meetings, to better understand their roles and avoid getting involved with the day-to-day operations of the University, based on his extensive knowledge with state law and the rules and regulations surrounding their roles and responsibilities.
Mitchell released a statement regarding his resignation, saying:
This morning I delivered my letter of resignation from the Board of Regents of Texas Southern University to Governor Greg Abbott. The decision was a difficult one, but necessary. Over the past few months, I have found myself at several crossroads which forced me to either make decisions which were popular to a certain group or to do the right thing. I chose the path of resistance and stood alone in defense of what was right. My heart is full of fond memories of the work that was accomplished on behalf of the students of Texas Southern University and my conscience is clear.
Texas Southern University has had my full commitment as a board member for five years and I am confident my efforts were not in vain. The good news is, my exit gives the Governor an opportunity to honor the students’, alumni and Houston community’s request to appoint regents who are undergraduate alumni and have the University’s best interest. I encourage you all to press forward and work toward greatness for TSU.
I wish the Tiger family well.
The statement from Mitchell speaks to the internal turmoil he faced as a member of the current Board and its leadership, while introducing some interesting points of concern as it relates to his replacement and other appointments going forward.
On the surface, one can assume that the decision by Mitchell, at a time where he has been widely applauded for being the lone supporter of Dr. Lane as a member of the TSU Board, makes sense from a timing perspective.
Mitchell’s Board term was up in less than a year (February 1, 2021), with no real assurances that he would have been reappointed by Governor Abbott anyway. On top of that, even if he would have stayed, the search for a new president of the University is going to take months, and possibly a year, which would have seemingly left him having to work with colleagues that he clearly has fundamental differences with as it relates to governance and leadership. Also, his departure now means that he would clearly avoid any potential future rebukes of the current TSU Board by the alumni, community and any other entities who oversee the University.
Through a movement called, #RemoveTheRegents, many concerned Texas Southern University (TSU) alumni and supporters have been diligently and aggressively calling on members of the TSU Board of Regents to resign, with one exception – Mitchell.
While Mitchell wasn’t the TSU Regent members of this movement have been hoping for, there appears to be a clear mandate that members of the movement are wishing that Mitchell’s decision prompts the rest of the TSU Regents to follow his lead and voluntarily resign.
When asked how he hopes to be remembered as a TSU Regent, Mitchell tells the Houston Forward Times:
“I’ve enjoyed my time serving the students of TSU and the Great State of Texas. My work speaks for itself.”
Mitchell currently is an attorney for Holland & Knight in their Houston office and leads the Public Finance Team in Texas. He has nearly two decades of legal experience serving as bond counsel and disclosure counsel for tax-exempt financings for cities, counties, state agencies and independent school districts. Mitchell represents national and regional investment banking firms as underwriter’s counsel in bond and interest rate swap transactions. His practice emphasis includes general obligation and revenue bonds, including transportation revenue, industrial revenue, higher education, mortgage revenue, pollution control and nonprofit hospital bonds. He also serves as counsel to several boards of independent school districts and community colleges. He received is J.D. from the University of Houston Law Center and his B.B.A. in Finance from the University of Houston as well. Prior to joining Holland & Knight, Mitchell was a partner with the law firm of Bracewell LLP. Mitchell currently serves and has served on many boards and organizations.