University of Tennessee

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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Fired public radio reporter sues UT-Chattanooga

Fired reporter Jacqui Helbert is suing the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga over her termination from the campus’s public radio station, WUTC-FM, reports the Nashville Scene.

In a lawsuit filed (Thursday) in Hamilton County Circuit Court, Helbert asks for “reinstatement, apology, education and training about the laws violated, lost wages, harm for the emotional distress from the retaliatory firing, reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, and any further relief appropriate to the circumstances,” up to $1 million in damages.

The university and and two employees, senior associate vice chancellor of marketing and communications George Heddleston and associate vice chancellor of marketing and communications Chuck Cantrell, are named as defendants.

“Clearly I believe I was fired for reporting a story of important public interest that did not sit well with lawmakers,” Helbert says in a prepared statement.

See also the Times-Free Press report. An excerpt:

Helbert was fired “because she accurately reported the inflammatory and embarrassing words of one legislator and the truthful but unpopular words of another,” the lawsuit states. “Sadly, UTC chose self-preservation through retaliation over honesty.”

And the AP did a brief story on the lawsuit that was distributed nationally.


UT trustees plan $375K in bonus payments to seven administrators

University of Tennessee trustees gave initial approval to pay out nearly $375,000 in bonuses to its seven top administrators Friday, reports the News Sentinel. That includes bonuses for two campus chancellors who have already left their posts.

Biggest bonus would go to UT President Joe DiPietro — $101,816.

Former Knoxville Chancellor Jimmy Cheek, who stepped down Feb. 15, could receive $41,563. Former Institute of Agriculture Chancellor Larry Arrington, who retired Sept. 1, could see $40,973.

The incentive payments were approved by trustees at the executive and compensation committee Friday morning at the Knoxville campus. The bonuses will go to the full board for a vote at its March 29 meeting in Chattanooga.

Chattanooga Chancellor Steven Angle, UT Health Sciences Chancellor Steve Schwab, former UT General Counsel Catherine Mizell and Senior Vice President for Research, Outreach and Economic Development David Millhorn each will get bonuses between $32,222 and $68,097.

The bonuses are part of an incentive plan the board adopted in 2012 and then tweaked last year. The board grades its president, chancellors and other top executives on measures like enrollment growth, expanding research and fundraising.

Chancellors and executives are eligible to receive up to 15 percent of their base salaries. None will receive the full 15 percent. The range is 9.2 percent, which Cheek will get, to 14.2 percent at the highest end, for Mizell.

Retired UT administrators get big bucks as professors

Former University of Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek will earn $340,650 annually as a professor, which is 75 percent of his chancellor’s salary and nearly double that of the next highest-paid faculty member in the department, reports the News Sentinel.

Cheek’s contract does not stipulate a point in time when his salary would revert to department standards. In other words, the arrangement is for an unlimited time period.

UT President Joe DiPietro, who currently earns an annual salary of $465,618, has a similar deal for when he leaves his administrative position. He’s contracted to earn 75 percent of his final base salary as president should he move to a 12-month faculty position in the College of Veterinary Medicine. His contract also specifies no time limit.

Retreat salaries, allowing higher education administrators to move to faculty positions, are common, especially for university leaders with an academic background, according to the American Council on Education.

These arrangements at UT currently add up to nearly $1.5 million in pay at the Knoxville campus, for former administrators including Cheek and five others. That’s about $450,000 more than UT pays in total to the highest earning faculty members in each of those administrator’s respective departments.

… In addition to retaining 75 percent of his chancellor’s salary for an indefinite period, Cheek will get four tickets to a Neyland Stadium skybox, four tickets to men’s basketball games; four tickets to women’s basketball games, and a parking permit for football and basketball games. He’ll also hold an adjunct faculty appointment in the UT Institute of Agriculture, and like other faculty members across the system, he’ll be expected to engage in community service.

(F)ormer UT system President Jan Simek also moved to a faculty position in 2011 under a contract that paid him a salary of $300,000 annually, or 75 percent of the $400,000 he earned as president.

He currently earns $340,956 as a professor and department head of the Department of Anthropology, about double the highest faculty salary in the department, which is $171,359. Simek teaches one undergraduate course, heads a graduate committee mentoring doctoral students, and supervises one graduate independent study.

UPDATE: DiPietro asked the UT board of trustees Friday to amend his contract so he would be paid at the high rate for only four years after stepping down as president, then revert to a standard professor’s salary, reports the News Sentinel. It’s unclear whether the trustees will go along with the idea, with Raja Jubran, vice chair of the board, declaring,  “What Joe is doing is the right thing from his perspective, not the fair thing. The fair thing is to go by the contract.”