University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro defended the Knoxville campus’s spring “Sex Week” program under critical questioning Thursday from state Sen. Stacey Campfield in a legislative hearing.
“In my professional opinion, it is very, very important on a university campus to have some sex education going on,” DiPietro told the Knoxville Republican at one point, adding that if a single unwanted pregnancy or sexual assault was prevented as a result, that would justify the program.
“I have to go back to the First Amendment,” he said. “I have a professional obligation to preserve the First Amendment. I’m sorry.”
Campfield replied that he, too, supports freedom of speech under the First Amendment, but the issue is “forcing students to pay for speech they find objectionable.” He cited as an example a “transgender cross-dressing show” during the April week of events.
“If someone wants to dress up like a duck, God bless them. But I shouldn’t have to pay for it,” said Campfield.
The University of Tennessee said Tuesday it will not pursue legislation that would allow it to become a stakeholder in a Knoxville proton therapy center currently under construction, reports the News Sentinel. The bill was withdrawn because “it was going to be very cumbersome to gain the needed approvals legislatively,” President Joe DiPietro said.
The university had hoped to get state approval to guarantee up to $98 million of the project’s costs. It would have gained a 30 percent interest in the company in exchange for the development and funding of related academic programs and facilities, including a Joint Institute for Radiological Sciences and Advanced Imaging at Cherokee Farms.
The Provision Center for Proton Therapy is being built in the Dowell Springs Business Park and is a project of the Provision Health Alliance and Terry Douglass, a local businessman and UT alumnus.
“I think there are differences of opinion that we were catching from various people about state taxpayer dollars being utilized to help a private-sector business. One can argue about that I guess if you look at bringing a Nissan or a Wacker (Chemie) or other big companies, but this is a different kind of thing,” he said.
It also might have precluded campuses at Martin or Chattanooga from getting the best interest rate on a note if they wanted to pursue a capital project, DiPietro said.
Bill Hansen, vice president of business and strategic development for Provision Health Partners, expressed disappointment at the decision but acknowledged the bill had “a small but vocal minority opposition from the local health care community and a senior legislator.”
“We continue to believe this bill was good for the University of Tennessee, good for the state of Tennessee and good for the local community,” Hansen said.
— Note: This refers to HB918/SB1194. As of Wednesday, the legislative website does not reflect that the bills have been formally withdrawn.
The University of Tennessee will hire a vice president for communications and marketing, a new position that will report directly to system president Joe DiPietro, reports the News Sentinel. The decision follows the recommendation from a task force DiPietro commissioned to examine the communications department following the July retirement of Hank Dye, who oversaw both the government relations and communications staffs.
The president is currently taking recommendations for search committee members across all campuses, and hopes to have a new vice president in place by winter, said Keith Carver, executive assistant to the president, who has facilitated the task force.
The job description is still being drafted, and a salary range will be available once the position is classified by the human resources department, Carver said.
The university will not use a search firm, but will be looking at both internal and external candidates.
The new vice president will not only handle media for the president’s office and system, but also marketing and branding.
“I would also say a strategist, someone to really be thinking about the message and communicating and helping position the University of Tennessee across the state,” Carver said
— Note: UT now has six people with ‘vice president’ as part of their official title and four others listed along with them as ‘chief officers’ on the UT website, not counting five campus chancellors and two executive directors.
Students in the University of Tennessee system may pay 4 percent to 8 percent more in tuition this fall, depending on their school, reports The Tennessean. The system’s board will vote Thursday at the members’ annual meeting in Knoxville. President Joe DiPietro said the Tennessee Higher Education Commission recommended increases of 4 percent to 6 percent for UT-Martin and UT-Chattanooga and 6 percent to 8 percent for UT-Knoxville. Part of the increase will fund a 2.5 percent raise for faculty, who went four years without any pay increases until last year.
DiPietro told The Tennessean’s editorial board that UT-Knoxville lags far behind peer institutions in salary, and attracting and retaining the best professors will help it move toward the goal of being in the nation’s top 25 institutions as ranked by U.S. News & World Report. UT-Knoxville came in at 46th among public schools in the most recent issue. Its in-state tuition, $8,400 per year, is well under all but two top-25 schools, DiPietro said.
By Bill Poovey, Associated Press
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — After almost a year as president of the University of Tennessee, there is no hiding Joe DiPietro’s enthusiasm for his system-wide strategic plan, his efforts to streamline the replacement of outdated learning facilities and promote all the campuses.
In the most publicly visible part of UT, DiPietro also shares the frustrations of many Vols’ fans about the losing football season and the shake-up in men’s basketball.
He told The Associated Press those programs are rebuilding and he has confidence in the people leading them.
Asked about repercussions of basketball coach Bruce Pearl’s firing in March, DiPietro said the Knoxville chancellor manages athletics but “the key is in rebuilding the program from a low spot, you need to, one, have patience.”
After a losing season under football coach Derek Dooley and the basketball team currently 4-6 under first-year coach Cuonzo Martin, DiPietro said, “We are not pleased.”
University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro took his message on the potential of switchgrass as a biofuel to Iowa Tuesday, where he touted the idea to the White House administration during a forum on rural economies, reports Megan Boehnke. As part of his three-day Midwest bus tour, President Barack Obama stopped in Peosta, Iowa, where he listened to a group of about 100 farmers, small-town business people and community leaders to discuss the state of the economy in rural America. DiPietro received his invitation to participate in the event at Northeast Iowa Community College by e-mail last week and was one of only three college presidents to attend the forum.
“Anytime you can heighten your visibility with the administration in Washington as a university it’s a good thing,” DiPietro said from his office Wednesday after returning from the forum. “It’s got to be good because they understand things about us that they didn’t before I got in there and talked to them about it.”
After opening remarks by the president, DiPietro participated in a breakout session on renewable energy and agriculture led by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.