Lambuth University closes, discusses future for students, campus

The gates leading to Lambuth University are covered with homemade signs expressing students' love for the school. | Photo by Gracie Ferrell

By Whitney Jones

Lambuth University will close its doors for the final time June 30, marking the end of a 168-year history, said Dr. Bill Seymour, university president, April 14.

The university has struggled with budget problems leading to late payrolls and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools revoked Lambuth’s accreditation last December. The university had appealed that decision.

After an April 14 meeting with the board of trustees, the decision was made to close the university and explore the possibility of selling the school to another institution. Seymour said several universities have expressed interest in the campus, one of which is the University of Memphis.

“If Lambuth can not continue as Lambuth, we’ve always felt a sense of responsibility to make sure that an ongoing educational institution is in this place continuing to serve the citizens of this city, this county and West Tennessee, and we’re committed to doing that,” Seymour said in a press conference April 14.

Throughout the announcement, Seymour continually focused on meeting the needs of Lambuth students.

“Through every discussion that we’ve had the most important issue, our top priority, is our students,” he said.

Lambuth is working on teach-out agreements for its students, which is defined by SACS as “a written agreement between accredited institutions that provides for the equitable treatment of students if one of those institutions stops offering an educational program before all students enrolled in that program complete the program.”

Dr. Lee J. Weimer, Lambuth’s vice president for academic affairs and dean of the university, said the teach-out is an agreement with schools in the area that allow students to keep and transfer the maximum number of credits possible.

Although students must meet with their advisers to make decisions on where to transfer and plan for a future without Lambuth, Lisa Warmath, associate provost and Lambuth alum, said the semester will go on as usual for the 400 remaining undergraduate students until graduation April 30.

“Until the end of the semester, it’s business as normal,” she said. “Our students are our priority and that’s what we’re going to focus on. It’s why we’re here.”

Jessica Avery, sophomore entertainment music business major who would have graduated from Lambuth this coming December, said students must continue and finish out the semester well while processing the difficult news.

“It really stinks that there is so much to do (and) there is no time to really grieve,” she said. “The semester is not over. There is so much to do, and there’s a lot of positive stuff happening.”

Avery said although it is best to focus on the positives at Lambuth now, the students are still struggling with Lambuth’s decision to close.

“(The closing announcement) was a hard blow, especially seeing it from a president that means so much to you that you can go in and talk to about anything,” she said. “You could see the difficulty in his body language and everything.”

Eyan Wuchina, sophomore film studies major, said he had hoped Lambuth would continue to stay open even though the future of the college has been, until this time, uncertain.

Wuchina, who plays on Lambuth’s football team, said discussing how the team would have to split up was “disheartening” because his coaches and teammates have become like family.

“Lambuth was great. It still is,” he said. “We’re all going to miss it terribly, but we’re all going to keep it with us wherever we all end up.”

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