Activists Win Suit Against Texas Southern PDF Print E-mail
By Drew Daniels -- Black College Wire   

Personal photo
Justin Jordan
Three former Texas Southern University students who claimed the university retaliated against them by violating their First Amendment rights have been awarded $200,000. A federal jury will award punitive damages this week.

Justin Jordan, Oliver J. Brown and William Hudson filed a lawsuit in 2005, claiming university officials targeted them after they disseminated information about former president Priscilla Slade and other university officials.

“We are very thankful that 12 other people saw the facts and agreed with us that [the] First Amendment had been violated and we were maliciously prosecuted,” said Jordan, a TSU public affairs major from Midland, Texas.

The students sued university officials in 2005, accusing administrators of harshly disciplining them for speaking out against corruption.

Jordan, who at the time was freshman class president, said the three students who became known as the TSU Three, stumbled upon on some payroll documents and at first didn’t know what they had.

The students played a role in bringing to light a scandal targeting Slade and the misappropriation of fiscal funds. Gov. Rick Perry demanded the resignations of the entire nine member board of regents, and the state put $13 million in funding on hold.

Jordan said the trial was postponed numerous times.

“When people say the wheels of justice turn slow, in terms of things in court, they are not lying,” said Jordan describing the process that lasted more than 2 ½ years.

 In March Slade, who had been fired the previous year, pleaded no contest to the charges and agreed to a compromise repayment of $127,000. She was ordered to perform 400 hours of community service. Another university official was sentenced to prison.

“All we wanted was a more effective and responsive administration,” he said. “Dr. Slade didn’t care about the university, only cared about her image.”

In January 2005, the students started a petition to remove her as the president of the university, acquiring more than 300 signatures, Jordan said. He recalled the school trying to put them in jail when the case first broke.

A federal jury awarded nearly $200,000 to all three students. “We are scheduled to return to court on Thursday to go over punitive [damages],” Jordan said.

Jordan, the youngest plaintiff in the case, said overall, the general public has been very supportive. According to Jordan, Brown is a pilot for Continental Airlines and Hudson works for Memorial Hermann Healthcare system in Houston.The past two weeks have been filled with court activities for the former three students. Despite the continuous battle in the courtroom, Jordan says he’s still a master on the grill.

Jordan, owner of JJ’S BBQ and More in Houston, opened his business last year.Over the past few years, Jordan said he has used his business as therapy to take his mind off the situation, and to pay his bills.

“The main reason why I opened my own business was because it was a way to help me pay for tuition,” Jordan said. Jordan said he was giving food away, and it didn’t make sense to just keep giving it away. “I was pretty much doing it every weekend. The more I started doing it, the more people caught on,” he said.  People don’t mind paying good money for good barbecue.”

Jordan said he considers his passion more than art because it is something he loves and can do for free.

It may be a metaphor for the lawsuit.

“Barbecue is something you don’t just get up and decide to do,” Jordan said. “You have to be born with that ardor.”

Drew Daniels is a May 2008 graduate of Dillard University and a regular contributor to Black College Wire.


Posted Aug. 05, 2008
< Prev   Next >