Category Archives: University of Tennessee

UT Trustees sign off on 2.2 percent tuition increase

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The University of Tennessee’s Board of Trustees has approved tuition increases for the coming fiscal year that the school says are the lowest in 30 years.

According to a news release from UT, in-state tuition will increase no more than 2.2 percent for most undergraduates. The majority of fees will not increase. The net increases range from 0 to 3 percent, depending on the campus.

The increases are part of a $2.2 billion budget approved by the trustees at their quarterly meeting in Knoxville on Thursday.

Also on Thursday, UT President Joe DiPietro announced the appointment of Noma Anderson as a special adviser on diversity and inclusion. Anderson is dean of the UT Health Science Center College of Health Professions.

DiPietro said “a diverse and inclusive culture equals success.”

Jimmy Cheek resigns as chancellor of UT Knoxville

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Jimmy Cheek, the chancellor of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, is resigning to rejoin the faculty.

In a Tuesday announcement, the university praised Cheek for increased diversity at the school, record fundraising and $1 billion in new construction and renovation.

Cheek has also faced numerous challenges during his tenure. They include a lawsuit over the university’s handling of sexual assault complaints and lawmaker anger that led to the defunding of the UT Office of Diversity last month.

Lawmakers had opposed the Office of Diversity’s recommendations to use gender-neutral pronouns for transgender students and to avoid religious-themed holiday parties. They also opposed an annual student-run “Sex Week” event on campus.

Cheek said at a news conference his resignation was a personal decision that had nothing to do with those issues.

UT tuition increase of 2.2 percent would be lowest in 30 years

University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro has proposed tuition increases for the UT system of about 2.2 percent, which he says is the lowest increase in more than 30 years, according to the Times-Free Press.

“Shout it from the mountaintop,” DiPietro quipped. “As always, action by the UT Board of Trustees is required for fee or tuition increases and, therefore, nothing is official until after the board meets.”

That will come Wednesday and Thursday when first a committee and later the full UT board votes on a plan to cap tuition increases to 2.2 percent in most cases for the proposed 2016-2017 fiscal year budget.

…Under the overall proposal, some students at UT-Martin will participate in a restructured fee program called “Soar in Four,” designed to reduce the cost of obtaining an undergraduate degree by incentivizing completion in four years.

And undergraduates in UT-Knoxville’s “Take 15, Graduate in 4” program who were admitted in 2013-2014 will see a 3 percent tuition increase. Previous increases for the group have been capped at lower-than-average levels in previous years, resulting in average annual increases of 2.2 percent over the last four years, according to UT.

The 2.2 percent cap, dubbed the “maintenance fee,” applies to most in-state and out-of-state undergraduates with the exception of those who would be included in Martin’s “Soar in Four” program.

Some graduate programs are not increasing tuition. Others are proposing increases from 2.2 percent to 5 percent.

UT prepares for guns on campus

By Steve Megargee, Associated Press
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The University of Tennessee has begun grappling with the implementation of a new law that allows employees to carry concealed weapons on campuses of state colleges.

UT Police Chief Troy Lane held a news conference Thursday to discuss the new law, which goes into effect July 1. Under the law, full-time employees of public colleges and universities who have handgun permits will be able to carry concealed weapons on campus. However, the law does not cover every contingency. So individual schools are drawing up specific policies.

Lane said he already is getting questions about the various exceptions, such as a provision that weapons are not allowed in “stadiums, gymnasiums or auditoriums where University-sponsored events are in progress.”

“What constitutes a school-sanctioned event or a university activity? Are we going to have to better define what is an auditorium and what is not an auditorium?” he asked. “We’re going to have to feel through this process for the next several months.”

Suggestions for handling some tricky situations are outlined in guidance provided by UT. Continue reading

Cost of new UT building increasing (construction time, too)

The State Building Commission last week has approved another $4.14 million increase in spending on the University of Tennessee’s new Student Union complex in Knoxville, according to the News Sentinel. The new total cost figure: $181.74 million.

When the commission first approved the project in 2008, its cost was estimated at $116.6 million. But that was before the Recession settled in, cutting state revenue and delaying the project for more than three years. It was also before design plans were approved and construction bids were opened.

By the time its design was approved in 2011 and its size increased by 30 percent, to 390,000 square feet, the cost was pegged at $160 million. In 2012 it jumped to $167.6 million. In July 2015, the commission approved a $10 million increase, to $177.6 million, to cover the costs of “unforeseen abatement, poor soil conditions, utility relocation, user-requested design changes and for awarding bids that are higher than were estimated,” according to minutes of the meeting.

When demolition of the old University Center parking garage started in March 2012, finally marking the start of work, UT said it would take about four years — to 2016 — to complete the entire project, to be built in two phases.

The target for overall completion is now during the spring of 2018.

UT diversity demolished? Haslam OKs defunding; UT disbands

Gov. Bill Haslam allowed the bill that diverts about $436,000 from the University of Tennessee’s office of diversity and inclusion and into minority engineering scholarships during the next school year to become law without his signature on Friday, reports Richard Locker. The article includes a generic overview of UT diversity squabbling.

“This bill received considerable debate and discussion during legislative session, and the final form of HB2248 was revised so that its primary effect is to redirect administrative funding for the Office for Diversity and Inclusion for one year into scholarships for minority engineering students. Although I do not like the precedent of redirecting funds within a higher education institution’s budget, I find the ultimate outcome of the legislation less objectionable and am therefore letting it become law without my endorsement,” Haslam said in a message to the Legislature.

The governor’s action comes a day after the University of Washington announced that it is hiring UT Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Rickey Hall, who has been at the center of controversy and calls to defund his office. (Previous post HERE)

Note: The governor’s decision to go along with the legislative mandate coincides with UT’s announcement that the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is being dismantled.

From the News Sentinel:

The University of Tennessee has disbanded its Office of Diversity, including eliminating four staff positions and a $131,365 operating budget… The reductions include Vice Chancellor for Diversity Rickey Hall, who has accepted a similar position with the University of Washington, an administrative assistant who has since accepted a job elsewhere in the university, and a graduate student, who has since graduated from UT.

Human Resources is also helping a fourth employee in her job search, including open positions within the university, Nichols said. All four will be paid through June 30, she said.

Meanwhile, Donna Braquet, director of the UT Pride Center, will resume her full-time position as an associate professor in the University Libraries department. A quarter of her salary had been covered by the Office of Diversity when she became director of the center.

…Chancellor Jimmy Cheek sent an email to the campus Friday afternoon, in which he said he was “saddened” but the decision.

“This in no way diminishes our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” he wrote. “The new law doesn’t impact most of the funding for those efforts.

“I am committed to making sure each person is respected for who they are and that each person feels safe and valued on our campus.”

UT diversity chief resigning, moving to University of Washington

Rickey Hall, whose tenure as head of the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion has led to controversy, is moving to the state of Washington, reports WATE TV.

University of Washington announced Thursday Hall will be their new vice president of the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity and chief diversity officer beginning on August 1.

“Rickey Hall brings enormous experience to the University of Washington,” said University of Washington Interim Provost Jerry Baldasty. “He has been a highly regarded leader in diversity for more than 20 years.”

Tennessee lawmakers have been calling on Hall to resign from his position at the University of Tennessee. A bill to strip the University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion of all state funding has passed the House and Senate. The bill would divert all funds designated as salaries for the office, a total of $436,700, to minority engineering scholarships. Gov. Bill Haslam has not yet signed or vetoed the bill.

Note: The University of Washington press release is HERE. It doesn’t mention the controversies over gender-neutral pronouns, Christmas observances, sex week and such that triggered Tennessee legislator grumblings.

Judge dismisses one piece of UT sexual assault lawsuit

By Steve MeGargee, AP Sports Writer
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A federal judge has dismissed one of dozens of claims in a Title IX lawsuit filed against Tennessee while denying the rest of the school’s motion to dismiss.

The school filed a motion in March to dismiss and strike portions of the complaint, which includes eight unidentified women as plaintiffs and said Tennessee violated Title IX regulations through a policy of indifference toward assaults by athletes. U.S. District Judge Aleta Trauger ruled Tuesday that one claim was “dismissed without prejudice,” but she allowed the rest of the case to proceed and didn’t strike any other portions of the complaint.

“We appreciate the judge’s consideration of dismissal of certain issues with this case especially in light of the case’s difficult nature as it involves the lives and well-being of young people,” Bill Ramsey, the school’s lawyer, said in a statement. “Under the standard for a motion to dismiss, the Court was required to accept the allegations in the complaint as true for purposes of ruling on the motion. We maintain our position that the allegations put forth in the lawsuit regarding the university are unfounded and without merit. We are confident that once all of the facts are considered instead of only the allegations in the complaint, plaintiffs will be unable to prove their claims.”
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House, Senate agree on compromise cut to UT diversity funding

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State lawmakers voted to send a message that they don’t agree with the sexually open and progressive views of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion on the University of Tennessee campus. So the Legislature on Thursday passed a bill stripping it of state funds — a total of nearly $337,000. The money will be used to fund minority scholarships instead.

Some socially conservative legislators had vowed to gut funding from the office for promoting Sex Week and after it recommended using gender-neutral pronouns on campus and advised against religious-themed parties and decorations.

The money would have gone to pay for the salaries of four people at the diversity office. The bill strips the office of funding for one year.

Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, raised concerns that lawmakers were sending too strong a message and that UT administrators would be disinclined to spend money on the diversity office after that one year because it attracted so much ire from the Legislature. He worried that the minority scholarships, along with funding for the diversity office would be gone even after the year is up.

But another lawmaker disagreed that the legislature had acted too harshly.

“This is a slap on the wrist compared to the foolishness that has come out of that office in the last few years,” Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said.
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House votes take funding from UT diversity program

The House voted Monday night to strip the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion of $5 million in state funding, leaving the bill’s fate to the Senate. At UT-Knoxville, student supporters plan “a class walk-out and rally” to protest the action.

From WPLN:

The move is meant to shut down a program that drew attention last year for suggesting the use of gender neutral pronouns and for recommending Christmas parties be referred to as holiday celebrations.

Those were just the latest actions on the UT Knoxville campus that have irked conservatives in the Tennessee legislature, like Rep. Roger Kane, R-Knoxville.

“There is diversity, but what this center does is it creates a sense of divisiveness,” Kane said Monday night, just before the chamber approved the funding change (Note: The vote: 66-22).

The House measure (HB2248) would take money for the diversity office and split it between scholarships for minority students and decals for police cruisers that say “In God We Trust.”

The state Senate is working on a separate plan to defund the diversity office. It, too, would put money into minority scholarships but not the “In God We Trust” stickers.
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