University of Tennessee

Legislative committee approves new UT student code of conduct (after some grumbling)

A revised University of Tennessee code of conduct for students got approval from the legislature’s Joint Government Operations Committee Wednesday, reports WPLN, but not without some contention and caveats.

The relationship between the legislature and the state’s flagship university has been difficult for a while, and this committee meeting was no exception. It took nearly two hours and included testimony from five critics of the new code.

They took issue with details like its elimination of a Greek Judicial Board. Right now, that board hears cases involving fraternities or sororities, and it’s made up of students involved with Greek life, which one of the critics says is necessary to understand those cases. The university, meanwhile, says all cases should be treated like any others.

Rep. Martin Daniel, R-Knoxville, also had a long list of complaints about the new code, including that it was too long to be easily understandable.

In the end, lawmakers did pass the new code of conduct but are requiring UT officials to come back in the spring and report on the outcome.

Note: The Tennessean’s report, HERE, has more details.

Former UT President Eli Fly dies, age 82

News release from the University of Tennessee

Former University of Tennessee President Emerson “Eli” Fly died Aug. 7 in Knoxville at the age of 82.

“Another UT legend has left us and he will be missed by all,” said UT President Joe DiPietro. “We are thankful for his many years of service and leadership, including serving as president, to his beloved alma mater.”

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University of Tennessee President Bill Haslam?

Victor Ashe speculates in his latest column that Bill Haslam might follow in the footsteps of Lamar Alexander in becoming president of the University of Tennessee as a first job after leaving office as governor.

Current UT President Joe DiPietro, who celebrates his 66th birthday today (Wednesday) is under no pressure to retire, Ashe says, but he recently bought a home in the Chicago area, where he has family. And when Haslam leaves office, DiPietro may be less than enthusiastic about dealing with a new governor, a new state House speaker and hostile legislators — a part of the UT president’s job.

(S)peculation is already starting as to what Haslam may do when he retires in mid-January 2019. He turns 60 in August 2018 and is in excellent health. It is unlikely he would be offered a post with President Trump given his opposition to Trump last fall, and the U.S. Senate seat held by Lamar Alexander does not open until 2020, when Alexander may seek another term anyway.

Haslam certainly has the resources and instincts to lead in philanthropy, and he would be excellent at it. He could return to Pilot Flying J, but that does not appear to be where his passion lies. He was recently asked on a local Sunday talk show by Susan Richardson Williams and Billy Stair about possibly becoming the next UT president.

He demurred on a direct response but did not reject it when asked. He questioned whether he would want to lobby the legislature for more UT funding. There is recent precedent on this when Lamar Alexander became UT president following his two terms as governor. There is no doubt that if Haslam wanted the position, the current board, every member of which he appointed, would support him overwhelmingly without debate.

Some faculty might oppose him without a competitive search, but they do not have a vote. Employees might raise issues on whether he would implement outsourcing as a new president as he advocated as governor. However, other governors have become university presidents and done well. Terry Sanford in North Carolina and David Boren in Oklahoma come to mind.

Note: The referenced TV talk show was WBIR’s “Inside Politics.” Video of Haslam’s appearance on the show can be found on the show’s website, HERE.

UT chancellor plans to bring back a director for LGBT Pride Center

University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport is making plans to bring back a director for its LGBT pride center, reports the News Sentinel.

For the last year, the job has been unfilled after the Tennessee legislature decided to redirect funds from the school’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the part-time position was eliminated, forcing students to run the center on their own with some administrative oversight from the dean of students.

Student and faculty groups such as the Pride Center Working Group have for the last several months called for UT and Davenport to hire a pride center director and put in place other initiatives aimed at promoting and preserving diversity on campus.

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UT board raises tuition, DiPietro’s salary by a little bit (1.8 percent and $26K)

The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees approved Thursday a $2.3 billion budget for 2017-2018 that includes a 1.8 percent tuition increase for in-state undergraduate students and a $25,667 annual pay raise for UT President Joe DiPietro, reports the News Sentinel.

“This is the lowest (tuition) recommendation we’ve made in more than three decades,” DiPietro said during Thursday’s annual board meeting at the UT Institute of Agriculture. “We’re working hard to keep other fee increases low. I’m proud to be a national leader in efforts to hold down tuition increases in a time when stories of high student debt are making headlines.”

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UT gets diversity funding back; legislator waits to see if ‘they’ll clean up their act’

Amid considerable controversy, the Legislature last year diverted $445,882 of University of Tennessee-Knoxville funding from its Office for Diversity and Inclusion and into a minority engineering scholarships fund. But the legislative mandate expires June 30, meaning UT officials could again spend it on promoting racial and cultural diversity on campus.

From a News Sentinel review of the matter:

It’s one of the first major decisions new UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport will have to make on campus and one that state lawmakers, many of whom have voiced opposition to the diversity office in the past, will closely be watching.

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Sexual misconduct complaints up 68 percent last year at UT Knoxville

The University of Tennessee says reports of sexual misconduct at the Knoxville campus jumped 68 percent from 2015 to 2016, with 38 complaints reported in 2015 compared to 64 in 2016.

Further from the News Sentinel:

The 64 reports made by students in 2016 include 50 reports of sexual assault, three reports of sexual harassment, three reports of sexual exploitation and eight reports that were unclassified.

For the first time this year, the report also includes additional data on relationship violence and stalking, with a combined 39 reports made in 2016.

The data was released Wednesday as part of an annual report UT has prepared each year since 2015 detailing reports of sexual misconduct occurring both on and off campus and reported by students. 

Officials at UT said the rise in complaints this year reflects increased educational efforts and training around sexual misconduct, rather than a rise in violence on campus.  

“People are more aware not only of the policy but the process of how to report,” said Jenny Richter, Title IX coordinator for the University of Tennessee Knoxville and associate vice chancellor and director of the Office of Equity and Diversity. “More of our faculty and staff, when they receive these kinds of reports, know what to do. I think students, as they become more aware of the processes and procedures, are more comfortable figuring out what avenues they have to report.” 

UT student newspaper cuts print edition to twice weekly

The University of Tennessee’s student-run newspaper, the Daily Beacon, is cutting its print frequency to twice weekly after 50 years of printing five days per week, reports the News Sentinel.

The change, which will start in the fall of 2017, was announced Tuesday in an editorial by the paper’s current and incoming chief editors. (Note: It’s HERE.)

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Emails show UT officials fired reporter in fear of funding loss in firing reporter

Email correspondence between University of Tennessee at Chattanooga top officials, obtained by the Times-Free Press, show that lawmaker pressure and a fear of losing state funding were indeed involved in the firing of WUTC reporter Jacqui Helbert.

Comments in emails appear in some respects appear to contradict earlier statements of UTC officials on the firing of Helbert, who has filed a $1 million lawsuit against the university.

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Sex Week at UT-Knoxville — different this year?

The University of Tennessee’s controversial Sex Week, which got underway Sunday, may have started as a way to address sexual assaults on campus and more traditional issues around sexuality, but this year the event is tackling an even broader range of issues, reports the News Sentinel.

A somewhat contrasting report of the Sex Week events is offered by Tennessee Star. Excerpts from both follow.

From the KNS:

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