Board of Regents

Faculty claims ‘hostility, intimidation and retaliation’ at Nashville State Community College

Start of an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Nashville State Community College maintains such an oppressive climate for its faculty members that it sought to monitor and interfere with efforts to ask them about it, according to a report commissioned by the Tennessee Board of Regents.

Nashville State’s executives sought to surreptitiously identify which faculty members were being confidentially interviewed by investigators from Middle Tennessee State University. Several administrators, including George H. Van Allen, the college’s president, improperly sought to get access to — and interfere in the distribution of — an online survey intended solely for faculty members, the investigators’ report says.

A large share of the college’s faculty members complained of “hostility, intimidation, and retaliation” by the college’s executive leaders, and spoke of working in an atmosphere where “trust is low and fear is high,” the report says. Most, it adds, “view the trend for this negative climate as continuing to spiral downward.”

In an interview with The Tennessean President Van Allen defended his record and described his critics as a “strong minority” of faculty members. He said he had tried to get access to the survey because he was concerned about its security.

Note: For more, see the extensive Tennessean story, HERE.

Boyd’s community college campaigning prompts Regents political policy review

Republican gubernatorial candidate Randy Boyd’s campaign appearances at two Board of Regents schools – The Tennessee College of Applied Technology in Memphis and Northeast State Community College in Blountville – has prompted a review of Board of Regent policies on campaign events, reports the Associated Press.

Boyd was a key adviser in the creation of Gov. Bill Haslam’s Tennessee Promise program to cover full tuition at two-year schools. The Knoxville businessman and philanthropist said in Nashville this week that “a lot of my life’s work has been helping kids get into these technical colleges.”

But the campaign stops at the schools in Memphis and Blountville appear to run up against a state law that bans the use of public buildings or facilities for campaign activity — unless all candidates are given the same access.

The head of the Tennessee Board of Regents is considering an overhaul of policies on political campaigning in response to the Boyd rallies on two of the system’s campuses.

“These events are allowed under state statute, as long as reasonably equal opportunity is available for other candidates,” Chancellor Flora Tydings said in a statement.

“I plan to brief the board on such use of state-owned property and determine its potential interest in developing a more detailed TBR policy concerning political or campaign requests on our system’s campuses,” she said.

Dick Williams, the chairman of Common Cause Tennessee, called it “unfortunate” that Tennessee doesn’t have a ban on all political activity at public facilities.

“It would be better to have the clear prohibition that you don’t use the campus or facility, period,” he said. “It would be better policy just to delete that exception.”

Williams noted that a recent legal opinion by state Attorney General Herbert Slatery found that it is lawful for campaign fundraisers to be held at the state-owned governor’s mansion because elected officials are excluded from the ban on campaigning on public property. The same exemption also applies to qualified candidates.

“They have the law and the attorney general on their side,” Williams conceded.

But it’s unlikely that a Democratic candidate like former Nashville Mayor Karl Dean would be allowed to hold a fundraiser at the governor’s mansion, he said.

Northeast TN Community College president target of ‘no confidence’ vote

The faculty at Northeast State Community College – in separate votes of “no confidence” by the Faculty Senate and the full faculty — have expressed disapproval of the institution’s president, Janice Gilliam, reports the Kingsport Times-News. The newspaper notes it’s the third time since 2014 that a Tennessee community college faculty has voted “no confidence” in a president and, in the two previous cases the targeted president wound up resigning.

Gilliam, president since mid-2009, has asked for an independent consultant to address the situation. Last week, she said she has no plans to step down in the face of faculty allegations including over-expansion, unrealistic revenue projections and an “environment of distrust.” The Tennessee Board of Regents is to have a team at Northeast State on Thursday to look into the situation.

The Senate vote was 10 for no confidence and one abstaining. The faculty vote was 98 no confidence votes, 16 confidence votes, one abstention and 12 not voting. The eligible voters numbered 127.

Chattanooga State President James Catanzaro announced his retirement in late 2014 after a no confidence vote in him by that school’s faculty, while more recently Jackson State Community College President Bruce Blanding in September of 2016 announced his earlier-than-planned retirement after a no confidence vote by the faculty of that college.

Title IX complaints increase at UT, Board of Regents

A state Comptroller’s report says the number of Title IX complaints reported at the University of Tennessee and the state Board of Regents has increased in the past year and more than doubled in the last year, reports The Tennessean.

At UT, there were 129 complaints reported system-wide in fiscal year 2016, compared to 54 in 2015 and just one in 2013. The board reported 200 complaints in fiscal year 2016, up from 174 in the previous year and 76 in 2013.  (Note: The report is HERE.)

Officials from both the Board of Regents and the university said the rise in complaints is indicative of an increase in reporting and changes in reporting requirements, as opposed to an increase in actual Title IX violations, which may include gender discrimination, sexual harassment or domestic violence between students.

“I think it’s a good thing,” 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. “We know these types of complaints are under-reported and I think the efforts made by (the Center for Health Education and Wellness) to educate our students, efforts by our faculty, by people at high administrative efforts, the training efforts we’ve made are bound to bring some focus to it.”

…The rise also coincides with a federal lawsuit against the university alleging a “hostile sexual environment” and accusing the school of mismanaging sexual assault cases. The case was settled in July for $2.48 million.

Richter said she was not surprised to see a difference in the number of complaints reported between institutions of higher education and other state entities, where no more than one complaint was reported in 2016, if at all.

As terms of the lawsuit settlement, the university was required to adopt a list of “Title IX enhancements” including adding summaries of prevention programs and training to data reports and sexual misconduct between students, ending the practice of distributing written lists of lawyers to student athletes and enhancing and and enforcing mandatory sexual assault training for UT employees. 

The university also announced plans for an independent commission to review policies and programs related to sexual misconduct and the hire of six new staff members to work on sexual assault prevention and awareness.

Many of those changes fell into place after July, while the report shows the number of complaints for the fiscal year that ended June 30.

Confirmed as Regents chancellor, Tydings seeks premiere system status

Fresh off a confirmation vote Tuesday making her the new chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, Dr. Flora Tydings is setting an ambitious goal to transform the higher education entity into the “nation’s premiere  technical and community college system,” reports the Times-Free Press.

Tydings, the current president of Chattanooga State Community College…  takes over formally as chancellor on Feb. 1 and will be paid $345,000 annually… She called it a “privilege” and an honor to “serve the state of Tennessee as your next chancellor, moving us through the transition of the FOCUS Act and toward becoming the nation’s premier technical and community college system.”

…Haslam told the regents… “We are not backing up at all in our commitment to our community college network and our technical schools. I think the role these schools play in our state will grow exponentially.”

Haslam also called it “a good thing when we have somebody we know and have seen their track record of performance take this position.”

Chattanooga State president picked as new Board of Regents chief

News release from Board of Regents

The Tennessee Board of Regents will meet in a special called session Tuesday, Dec. 27, to consider a recommendation for the appointment of Dr. Flora Tydings as the next chancellor of the Board of Regents system.

Tydings has been president of Chattanooga State Community College since July 2015, and was president of Athens Technical College in Athens, Ga., a campus of the public Technical College System of Georgia, from 2003 to 2015.

The Board of Regents will meet via a telephone conference call at 1 p.m. CST Tuesday to consider the recommendation by Gov. Bill Haslam for Tydings’ appointment. The governor is chairman of the Board of Regents and also chaired a 16-member chancellor search committee appointed by the Board in August, personally leading the search for the TBR system’s next chief executive officer.

“After a very deliberate search, careful thought and much input from the search committee and the TBR system and campus communities, I’m pleased to recommend Dr. Flora Tydings to lead the Board of Regents as it transitions under the FOCUS Act and continues its critical work ahead in the Drive to 55 effort to equip a majority of Tennesseans with post-secondary degrees, diplomas and certificates,” Gov. Haslam said today.

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Former Knoxville News Sentinel capitol bureau chief Tom Humphrey writes about Tennessee politics, government, and legislative news.

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