University of Tennessee

Haslam: No budget retaliation against UT for outsourcing rejection; higher ed seeks $102M new funding

Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday that his administration won’t retaliate against several University of Tennessee campuses that opted against his effort to privatize facilities management services at higher education institutions, reports the Associated Press.

During budget hearings, Haslam said he’s disappointed with how the process played out, but his administration won’t give less money to higher education because of choices that were left up to each campus.

… “There’s no recrimination from us, in my role as governor, anybody else’s role,” Haslam said. “We meant what we said. This was a tool to use if you found it to be to your benefit.”

The Health Science Center in Memphis is the only UT campus to opt in, but officials there only intend to have the company take over mechanical services that are already outsourced through a consortium with the University of Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College.

And The Tennessean has this quote from the governor on the reasons behind outsourcing rejection: “I understand they are subject to the politics of the governor’s office, legislature and campus workers’ union and all sorts of people, but great universities live in the midst of that and work past it.” 

More on the higher education budget hearing from the Times Free Press:

Beginning next fall, new graduates of the Tennessee College of Applied Technology or similar technical programs offering certificates and degrees from state community colleges will come with an eye-catching “warranty” for prospective employers.

If companies can demonstrate the graduates they hire aren’t up to snuff, “we’ll take them back and train them for free,” Tennessee Board of Regents Chancellor Flora Tydings told Gov. Bill Haslam on Tuesday.

Replied Haslam: “I love the idea. … That’s accountability at its finest.”

… Meanwhile, Tennessee Higher Education Commission Executive Director Mike Krause told the governor he is asking the THEC board to approve holding tuition and fee increases between 0 and 3 percent during the 2018-2019 academic year for the University of Tennessee System, the Board of Regents and six independently governed public universities.

Haslam has made it a priority in the last three years to boost state spending for higher education, reversing a decades-long trend in Tennessee and most states where public higher education has been forced to rely on large tuition and fee increases to make up higher operational costs.

This year, the UT system is seeking a total of $25.94 million in general government dollars for its campuses, which include the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. The Board of Regents is asking for $23.84 million, while the locally governed six universities, including Tennessee Tech, are seeking $24.49 million.

The total higher ed request is $102.51 million, which includes various state-administered programs.

UT trustees grumble about ‘slaps in the face’ to Haslam outsourcing plans

Members of the University of Tennessee board of trustees have slammed a decision by UT Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport to not participate in facilities outsourcing even though Davenport argued the university wouldn’t save as much by privatization as promised, reports the News Sentinel.

In a presentation to the board (Friday), Davenport said UT Knoxville would only save $906,654 in the first year of outsourcing with private company Jones Lang LaSalle, compared to the $5.2 million the company estimated.

The university is already making its own improvements in efficiency; an outside company would not be able to handle the complexity of work associated with facilities management in research departments and the change could be harmful to the local economy, Davenport listed as additional reasons for her decision.

Trustees criticized the decision saying it lacked financial justification and would make it hard to go to the state to ask for money in the future.

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Reaction to UT outsourcing rejection: Haslam still supports concept as TSEA applauds

Press release statements following the University of Tennessee decision rejecting participation in outsourcing of facilities management services as proposed by Gov. Bill Haslam:

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UT system campuses reject Haslam’s outsourcing plan

University of Tennessee administrators announced Tuesday that they will not be participating in a proposed facilities outsourcing plan pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam, reports the News Sentinel.

The announcements by UT Chattanooga, UT Knoxville, UT Martin and the UT Health Science Center end more than two years of speculation as to whether campuses in the UT system would participate in the plan and raise questions about whether other public campuses across the state will follow suit.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport first announced today a decision not to participate in the proposed facilities outsourcing plan in a statement posted on a UT website.

Excerpt:

The goal of the proposed outsourcing plan was to improve efficiencies and determine what is in the best interest of our campus. We thank the state and the UT System administration for challenging us to engage in extensive cost analyses and an evaluation of our practices, which have led to cost-saving operational changes in keeping with the outsourcing goals.

My decision to opt out was based on the extensive analyses of the financial considerations, the complexity of the work done on our research-intensive campus, and our commitment to the East Tennessee economy and our workforce. It is for these reasons that I have decided outsourcing facilities management is not the best option for our campus.

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UT says only private donations will fund LGBT pride center

The University of Tennessee Knoxville is using private funds to operate its LGBT pride center following last year’s decision by state lawmakers to strip state dollars from the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, reports the News Sentinel.

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UT restores ‘Lady Vols’ title to all women’s teams

University of Tennessee Athletic Director John Currie announced Thursday the return of the Lady Vols name, logo and brand for all women’s sports, reports the News Sentinel.

“We will not allow for the Lady Vol brand to disappear from our athletic department or the university,” Currie said during a press conference at the Ray & Lucy Hand Digital Studio.

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Fitzhugh floats Lady Vols as issue for legislature, guber campaign

State House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh will bring his campaign for governor to the University of Tennessee Knoxville campus Friday and announce that he’s filing a legislative resolution urging the school to reinstate the Lady Vols name, reports the News Sentinel.

Fitzhugh.. said he plans to introduce the nonbinding resolution during the 2018 session and, if elected governor and de facto chair of the UT Board of Trustees, he will put the resolution before the university’s governing board.

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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.