Fisk University 

Some need-to-know facts about TSU

Some need-to-know facts about TSU

By Shayla Bird

♦ The AmSouth ATM machine on the second floor of the student center lets you withdraw a minimum of $5—just enough cash to get you through the day, but not enough to overdraw your account.

♦ Don’t even think about gaining access to Mary Wilson Hall, the freshman girl’s dorm, if you don’t live there. It’s the most secure dorm on campus. Police parade the nearby parking lot, especially during fall move-in, when local Nashville guys try to get a peep at the incoming class of freshmen gals.

♦ TSU was the founding university of the HBCU Student Think Tank, a conference during which students discuss problems and issues concerning black college students.

♦ Most female dorms on campus have beauty salon areas complete with hair-washing sinks and hair dryers.

♦ TSU has produced more than 40 Olympic athletes, 16 of whom have won gold medals.

♦ The Aristocrat of Bands, TSU’s own marching band, was one of the eight finalists chosen from a group of 45 HBCU marching bands to compete in the Honda Battle of the Bands Invitational Showcase held in Atlanta earlier this year. (Think Drumline.)

How should I do lunch?

Anybody who’s anybody on TSU’s campus knows that the place to be every day at lunchtime (11 a.m.-2 p.m.) is the student center. The place is bustling as people grab lunch, hand out flyers for upcoming events or just chill out in the courtyard. Don’t even try to find a parking space; it’s too packed. And on Wednesdays, if you don’t come clean, don’t come at all. That’s the unofficial dress-up day. Wednesday lunch is also when the on-campus organizations set up tables to inform and recruit. When the weather’s nice, a DJ will post up in the corner of the courtyard to keep the atmosphere lively—although it’s common knowledge that no DJ has been able to hold it down like DJ C-Lo did before he graduated.

How do I find out what’s going on?

While the campus paper, The Meter, and TSU campus radio do a good job at keeping the campus informed, flyers passed out at lunchtime are the most effective way to promote upcoming activities. There are bulletin boards in each dorm that let students know about everything from poetry nights to relationship seminars to résumé workshops. Student Activities Calendars are posted throughout campus and online. But from there, word of mouth takes over. And if students still don’t get it, the PA systems in each dorm let students know when important things are taking place.

How safe is this place?

TSU students typically feel right at home on campus, and since everyone pretty much knows each other, there’s generally no reason for anyone to feel afraid. However, walking escorts are available for the extra-cautious, and there are emergency phones all around campus. There is an on-campus police department whose officers patrol the campus by squad car and bicycle 24 hours a day. The most recent crime statistics available (from 2001) show that the majority of crimes are related to motor vehicle theft and other forms of burglary. There have been no incidents of rape, murder or arson in the past two years.

Do I need a car, and where do I put it?

Many TSU students (especially freshmen) don’t have cars, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. All of the essentials are available from the campus bookstore, and there are enough people with cars that it’s usually not hard to get a ride to Kroger or Super Wal-Mart on Charlotte Pike in an emergency.

When people say that there’s nowhere to park on TSU’s campus, what they really mean is that there’s nowhere to park that’s close. But compared to other campuses, TSU is a driver’s dream. Outside of almost every dorm is a parking lot for students to use. But if you’re looking for a parking spot in the afternoon or evening, chances are you’re gonna have to park far away and hike it.

After registering their cars with the TSUPD, students receive a decal that allows them to park on campus. The best part: It’s already paid for. The parking fee is included in tuition. But make sure your parking decal is displayed on your windshield at all times, unless you like having your car towed.

What famous people graduated from here?

From politics to pop culture, TSU boasts an impressive list of famous alumni. Among the most notable are billionaire media mogul Oprah Winfrey; Levi Watkins Jr., cardiologist and associate dean of the John Hopkins School of Medicine; and Wilma Rudolph, the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympics. Other successful alumni include Lloyd W. “Fig” Newton, the highest-ranking African American in the Air Force; Harold Ford, Tennessee’s first African American congressman; and Bobby Jones of BET’s Bobby Jones Gospel Hour. NBA stars Anthony Mason and Carlos Rogers are proud to call themselves TSU alumni, as is Robbyne Manning, current contestant on UPN’s America’s Next Top Model.

Why do people really go to football games?

For the halftime show. Even the vendors are craning their necks to get a peek at the two fiercely competitive, high-stepping marching bands that play up-tempo hip-hop hits as well as classic old-school jams that never fail to get the crowd up and grooving.

As for the actual games: The biggest home game of the season is against South Carolina State (The John A. Merrit Classic) and is the most-attended game next to homecoming. Some big away games are against other HBCUs such as Florida A&M University (the Atlanta Classic) and Jackson State University (the Southern Heritage Classic). The lines at the box office for student discounted tickets to these two games are always endless, so make sure to get there early.

What celebrities have been here?

Impressive members of the entertainment community are always stopping by TSU to show their love to all the students who support them. In the past few years, Ashanti, Musiq Soulchild, DMX, Jay Z, Method Man, Jon B., Goodie Mob, Destiny’s Child, Jagged Edge and Brian McKnight have all performed on campus. These big performances are usually around homecoming time. Members of two syndicated radio shows, The Doug Banks Morning Show and The Tom Joyner Morning Show, have also graced the campus broadcasting their radio shows live from the TSU Gentry Center. And while not exactly entertainers, some pretty big names in black business and industry have ventured to TSU as featured speakers, including Earl Graves, publisher of Black Enterprise Magazine, Congressman Harold Ford Jr. and hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons.

Do I have a curfew?

No, but there are visitation hours, an allotted time when visitors of the opposite sex can venture beyond dorm room lobbies. Some dorms don’t have visitation hours at all (meaning no visitors of the opposite sex period), and some do. Visitation rules are established by the individual dorm directors, who usually adjust the hours based on the behavior of the students. They change from semester to semester, so make sure you check on current policy once you’re settled.

What the heck is the NPHC?

The National Pan-Hellenic Council Inc. (NPHC) is the national governing body for the historically African American fraternities and sororities (The Divine Nine), which include Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc., Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Inc., Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc., Iota Phi Theta Fraternity Inc., Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc., Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity Inc. and Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc. According to its Web site (ww.nphchq.org), NPHC “serves as the coordinating agent, unifying body and policy implementing body for affiliate organizations.” Basically, NPHC is the umbrella organization under which all of the major black fraternities and sororities fall. Most universities with affiliated fraternities and sororities have subsidiary branches of the council whose officers are members of fraternities and sororities at that school.

Why is there a plane in the middle of campus?

The airplane in the front of the student center is a historical marker established by the State of Tennessee Historical Commission to document the roots of Reserve Officer Training at the university. TSU’s program is the only Air Force ROTC in Nashville.

What classes or courses will change my life?

Any class in the Africana Studies department is bound to be both informative and inspirational. One of the objectives of the department is to produce students who have a “balanced understanding of the centrality of Africa and her descendants to the culture and history of world civilization.” Most Africana Studies units are interdisciplinary programs, but at TSU it is a freestanding department, the only one of its kind in the southeastern United States, and one among three other departments at other HBCUs. The department itself is an untapped resource according to some students, as most people don’t take any classes beyond introductory levels.

Do I have to go downtown for class?

The Avon Williams Campus dowtown, at Charlotte and Ninth avenues, is home to several university departments. Students usually don’t have classes there until at least their sophomore year, and even then it depends on their major. Business Administration or Speech Pathology are located here, but most of the activities that take place downtown are reserved for night, graduate and continuing education classes.

How do I get a shuttle schedule?

The shuttles take students to and from the main campus, the downtown campus and the on-campus apartments. Schedules are available in the student center at the information desk and are posted in dorm lobbies.

What are some things I should know about my school?

♦ Fisk is the oldest university in Nashville.

♦ In proportion to enrollment, Fisk produces more graduates who ultimately obtain doctoral degrees than any other college or university in the country.

♦ Fisk University men’s basketball team won the 2003 Great South Athletic Conference Championship.

♦ In its January 2003 issue, Black Enterprise Magazine ranked Fisk University No. 22 of the top 50 colleges and universities for African American students.

How should I do lunch?

The food in the main dining hall sells your basic hot meals, while The Sub, a restaurant in the bottom of the student center, sells hot wings, cheese sticks and chicken tenders. But everyone knows it’s not what you eat that’s important at lunchtime, it’s where you eat. At Fisk, the place is “the Yard,” the area in front of Spence Hall, the student center. Fraternity and sorority members sit on their corresponding plots (revered areas that are off-limits to any non-affiliated persons), while others take part in the interesting discussions (about Greek politics, relationships, race relations and everything else under the sun) that go on at the Tree of Knowledge in the center of campus.

Are there any urban legends I should know about?

There are several urban legends surrounding the history of Fisk University. It’s been said that around the same time as Jubilee Day, people have seen the image of one of the original Jubilee singers in an upstairs window of Jubilee Hall. (See What’s so special about Jubilee Hall?, below.) The story is that the singer was deathly ill and unable to tour with the group. She was so distraught about being unable to help her school that she committed suicide by tying a noose around her neck and jumping out of the window.

Another urban legend involves the bell tower located beside New Livingstone Hall. After the school was established, there were many hate groups, including the KKK, who were adamantly opposed to the liberation and education of blacks. Legend has it that Fisk was built on a hill with a bell tower to keep a lookout whenever it was rumored that the KKK was going to go on one of its infamous night rides. On such nights, a brave student would keep watch and ring the bell at the first sight of approaching danger, warning the students and all other area blacks to gather together and go indoors.

Another Fisk legend: If you step inside the grassy area known as “the Oval” that sits in front of Jubilee Hall, then you won’t graduate. There’s also the roped-off “golden staircase” in Jubilee Hall that students are forbidden to ascend until their 25th reunion. If you break tradition, then you’re doomed to a lifetime of bad luck.

Where do I go to support local black-owned business?

For the Afrocentrically inclined, there are many local black-owned businesses around Fisk. Along with several barber shops, hair salons and nail shops that cater to students, there’s the particularly popular Alkebu-Lan Images Bookstore, located on the corner of Jefferson and 28th Avenue, the only African American bookstore in Nashville. Kijiji Coffee House, which hosts open-mic poetry on Friday nights, is also located on Jefferson Street, closer to the campus. The College Crib, the one-stop shop for paraphernalia for the historically black fraternities and sororities, is the only place of its kind in Nashville. Swett’s Restaurant, a soul food meat-and-three, is also nearby, at the corner of 28th and Clifton avenues.

What’s so special about Jubilee Hall?

Jubilee Hall, the oldest standing building dedicated to the higher learning of African Americans, is famous for being the starting point for the famous Jubilee Singers. The U.S.

Department of the Interior has designated it as a National Historic Landmark.

The Jubilee Singers were a group of talented Fisk singers who traveled from Nashville in 1871 hoping to raise money for their school. By touring throughout the country and around the world singing traditional negro spirituals, the Jubilee Singers were able to raise enough money ($125,000) to save Fisk from bankruptcy. Not only did they save their school, they were also among the first to introduce the negro spiritual as a musical art form to international culture. (They sang for the Queen of England.) Each year, Fisk University celebrates and honors the contribution of the singers by recognizing Jubilee Day on Oct. 6, the anniversary of the singers’ departure for their now legendary tour.

What’s up with those art galleries?

There are two major art galleries at Fisk, the Aaron Douglas Gallery and the Carl Van Vechten Gallery. The latter is best known for hosting a large part of the Alfred Stieglitz Collection of modern American and European art, which includes works by Picasso, Cézanne, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, O’Keeffe, Demuth, Hartley, Dove and Walkowitz. The Aaron Douglas Gallery features collections of classical and contemporary African and African American art as well as some of the work of the university’s fine arts faculty and students.

What is a “come-out” show?

A “come out” show, or more formally, a probate show, is a celebration that follows the initiation of new members into a fraternity or sorority. Because the intake process is so discreet, the students on campus generally do not know who has pledged each fraternity or sorority. Not only does the show provide an opportunity for the student body to be introduced to the new members, it is an opportunity for the new members to proclaim their appreciation and loyalty to their organization. Probate shows usually involve stepping, dancing, singing and chanting to demonstrate unity.

What is a Greek plot?

A Greek plot is a section of the campus where historically black fraternities and sororities display their symbols. Benches, statues, painted pebbles and picnic tables are just some of the various things that can constitute a Greek plot. The areas are decorated with the fraternity or sorority’s colors and symbols. A plot is off limits to anyone not affiliated with the organization, and violation of this rule is of utmost disrespect to the members of that fraternity or sorority. This area also acts as a place where undergraduates and alumni gather when on the campus. At Fisk, sorority and fraternity members often eat lunch at or around their corresponding plots.

Are there any urban legends I should know about?

There are several urban legends surrounding the history of Fisk University. It’s been said that around the same time as Jubilee Day, people have seen the image of one of the original Jubilee singers in an upstairs window of Jubilee Hall. (See What’s so special about Jubilee Hall?, below.) The story is that the singer was deathly ill and unable to tour with the group. She was so distraught about being unable to help her school that she committed suicide by tying a noose around her neck and jumping out of the window.

Another urban legend involves the bell tower located beside New Livingstone Hall. After the school was established, there were many hate groups, including the KKK, who were adamantly opposed to the liberation and education of blacks. Legend has it that Fisk was built on a hill with a bell tower to keep a lookout whenever it was rumored that the KKK was going to go on one of its infamous night rides. On such nights, a brave student would keep watch and ring the bell at the first sight of approaching danger, warning the students and all other area blacks to gather together and go indoors.

Another Fisk legend: If you step inside the grassy area known as “the Oval” that sits in front of Jubilee Hall, then you won’t graduate. There’s also the roped-off “golden staircase” in Jubilee Hall that students are forbidden to ascend until their 25th reunion. If you break tradition, then you’re doomed to a lifetime of bad luck.

Where do I go to support local black-owned business?

For the Afrocentrically inclined, there are many local black-owned businesses around Fisk. Along with several barber shops, hair salons and nail shops that cater to students, there’s the particularly popular Alkebu-Lan Images Bookstore, located on the corner of Jefferson and 28th Avenue, the only African American bookstore in Nashville. Kijiji Coffee House, which hosts open-mic poetry on Friday nights, is also located on Jefferson Street, closer to the campus. The College Crib, the one-stop shop for paraphernalia for the historically black fraternities and sororities, is the only place of its kind in Nashville. Swett’s Restaurant, a soul food meat-and-three, is also nearby, at the corner of 28th and Clifton avenues.

What’s so special about Jubilee Hall?

Jubilee Hall, the oldest standing building dedicated to the higher learning of African Americans, is famous for being the starting point for the famous Jubilee Singers. The U.S.

Department of the Interior has designated it as a National Historic Landmark.

The Jubilee Singers were a group of talented Fisk singers who traveled from Nashville in 1871 hoping to raise money for their school. By touring throughout the country and around the world singing traditional negro spirituals, the Jubilee Singers were able to raise enough money ($125,000) to save Fisk from bankruptcy. Not only did they save their school, they were also among the first to introduce the negro spiritual as a musical art form to international culture. (They sang for the Queen of England.) Each year, Fisk University celebrates and honors the contribution of the singers by recognizing Jubilee Day on Oct. 6, the anniversary of the singers’ departure for their now legendary tour.

What’s up with those art galleries?

There are two major art galleries at Fisk, the Aaron Douglas Gallery and the Carl Van Vechten Gallery. The latter is best known for hosting a large part of the Alfred Stieglitz Collection of modern American and European art, which includes works by Picasso, Cézanne, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, O’Keeffe, Demuth, Hartley, Dove and Walkowitz. The Aaron Douglas Gallery features collections of classical and contemporary African and African American art as well as some of the work of the university’s fine arts faculty and students.

What is a “come-out” show?

A “come out” show, or more formally, a probate show, is a celebration that follows the initiation of new members into a fraternity or sorority. Because the intake process is so discreet, the students on campus generally do not know who has pledged each fraternity or sorority. Not only does the show provide an opportunity for the student body to be introduced to the new members, it is an opportunity for the new members to proclaim their appreciation and loyalty to their organization. Probate shows usually involve stepping, dancing, singing and chanting to demonstrate unity.

What is a Greek plot?

A Greek plot is a section of the campus where historically black fraternities and sororities display their symbols. Benches, statues, painted pebbles and picnic tables are just some of the various things that can constitute a Greek plot. The areas are decorated with the fraternity or sorority’s colors and symbols. A plot is off limits to anyone not affiliated with the organization, and violation of this rule is of utmost disrespect to the members of that fraternity or sorority. This area also acts as a place where undergraduates and alumni gather when on the campus. At Fisk, sorority and fraternity members often eat lunch at or around their corresponding plots.

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