Priscilla Slade and the TSU Three

Spurred on by a fellow student's death, Oliver Brown, William Hudson and Justin Jordan ran a gauntlet on their way to bring down a president

(The Press attempted to contact Jackson at HUD and was directed to his media relations staff. Jackson's public affairs officer, Jerry Brown, in Washington, D.C., said Jackson had no comment on the allegations concerning the bond.)

Later, the three students, referred to by the media as the "TSU Three," took what they had collected to the Harris County District Attorney's Office. And despite what has been hinted at by the media, it was the TSU Three, not school officials, who prosecutors say initially provided them with the information needed to jumpstart an investigation.

Ultimately, Slade was indicted for allegedly spending more than $500,000 of university money on a lavish personal lifestyle. Among other items, prosecutors accuse Slade of purchasing a $9,000 sleigh bed, an almost $5,000 mattress set and $4,000 in silk bedding, a $50,000 security system with a panic room inside her million-dollar home in Memorial Park, an approximately $100,000 bar tab at Scott Gertner's Skybar and Grille, spa treatments, and a 25-place dinner set from Neiman Marcus worth nearly $40,000.

Oliver Brown
Photographs by Daniel Kramer
Oliver Brown
William Hudson
Daniel Kramer
William Hudson

A jury convicted former TSU chief financial officer Quintin Wiggins on the charge of misapplication of fiduciary property over $200,000, sentencing him in May to ten years in prison, and a grand jury indicted former TSU vice-president Bruce Wilson on the charge of misapplication of fiduciary property between $100,000 and $200,000. Wilson is awaiting his trial.

If this was a movie and the TSU Three had their way, Slade and other university officials would be behind bars right now. But this is not a movie.

In October, a Harris County judge granted a mistrial in the case against Slade after jurors could not reach a verdict. Slade's defense attorney Mike DeGeurin argued that all of Slade's spending was aimed at improving the status of TSU and luring donors. Prosecutors say they will retry the case in March.

"I've been living this for the past three years," says Brown, "and I'm bursting. People need to know everything we've been through to get to this point."

Oliver Brown is an imposing guy, well-built, dark-eyed, with tall, arching shoulders that give him a cocky sort of look. His voice is loud and deep; when he talks, it's rapid-fire and in-your-face. He has the nervous energy of a Red Bull addict. Raised in Houston, Brown at 28 is the oldest of the TSU Three and was a senior running for Student Government Association president in the fall of 2004 when the trio of students all came together.

By contrast, Justin Jordan of Midland is the baby of the group, only a freshman when he befriended Brown that year. He is quiet, moves slowly, purposefully, and has a Texas drawl. At the time Sloan was killed, Jordan was president of the freshman class and active in the Republican Party. Brown had hired Jordan to help run Brown's campaign for student ­president.

Hudson, from Houston and a conservative at heart, already knew Brown from the university debate team. Hudson is almost smack in the middle between his friends in both age and demeanor. A member of Who's Who Among American High School Students, Hudson's nickname at Jersey Village High School was "Kool-Aid," say his parents, because of his constant wide-open smile, yet he can be loud and as righteous-sounding as any sweaty-browed Sunday preacher.

All three were children of the Priscilla Slade era at TSU; she was elevated to president of the university in 1999 after having been dean of the business school. Slade took over a university that was in poor financial shape. In 1989, there was talk in the state legislature of appointing a czar to oversee the operation of TSU, and in 1997 the state auditor's office began monitoring the school. However, the audit reports became progressively better in the initial years of Slade's presidency. Among other accomplishments, Slade is credited with helping to streamline the financial aid process, which dramatically increased student enrollment to an all-time high of 11,635 in 2004 (versus this fall's enrollment of 9,544), and with launching a construction blitz on campus.

"It is truly my opinion," says a former university regent who would only comment on condition of anonymity, "that before Dr. Slade, the university was not a good place. But after Priscilla came on, she kind of took it to the next level. She raised money and put in an image of professionalism. She made some truly tangible improvements in reference to enrollment and customer service."

As for the numerous new buildings Slade is credited with delivering on campus, says the regent, "Isn't timing everything? She was there when it took place. And somebody had to get the credit."

Brown, Hudson and Jordan all refer to Slade's early days as president as "the smoke and mirror years." And despite Hudson's nickname, they were not drinking the Kool-Aid.

Hudson says they were concerned with many problems around campus, particularly "the fact the campus looked run down and terrible, that there was a dead student on campus and security was lacking and that the payroll records showed something was not right with the way the school was doing business." When the three students returned to campus in January 2005 following winter break, they decided to hold Slade responsible. With Brown running for student government president and Jordan and Hudson by his side, they began circulating flyers around campus calling for Slade's resignation, and Jordan sent a letter to the Student Government Association explaining why they were asking for Slade's head.

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