State Sen. Lowe Finney, D-Jackson, took the opportunity to visit with state jobs officials while in England to participate in a conference for political and business leaders at Queens College in London, reports the Jackson Sun. While there, Finney paid a visit to Regents University in London, a four-year institution with a partnership with the University of Memphis Finney met with Dr. Supti Sarkar and Colm Reilly, of PA Consulting Group, Tennessee’s London-based affiliate designated to help identify, engage and recruit potential economic development projects from throughout the United Kingdom.
“The people I met with are Tennessee’s point people,” Finney said. “I was not meeting with an owner of a company. (Sarkar and Reilly) are located in London. My visit to London was not a ‘trade mission’ in the sense that I was pitching to those companies.”
Finney said the meeting helped him understand what they are dealing with and what they need in their recruitment efforts as well as to let them know that the legislature is a partner.
Finney said the three-day trip was very productive and that it was made possible through a grant and not paid for at taxpayer expense
The State Building Commission on Thursday gave the green light to more than a half-billion dollars worth of construction and upgrades for dozens of projects, including a $30 million, 512-bed expansion of the Bledsoe Correctional Facility in Pikeville, reports the Chattanooga TFP. The expansion will handle medium-security prisoners. The project also will provide minor modifications to house female inmates in separate security facilities within the complex.
Commission members also approved some $21 million to beef up security at state prisons, including $4.4 million for a specialty security contractor to replace what a Building Commission document described as “aging and failing locking systems” in facilities statewide.
Many of the projects were included in the new state budget that went into effect July 1 but required commission approval to proceed.
— ETSU Football
Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey (R-Blountville) today announced the Tennessee State Building Commission’s approval of a project to build a new football stadium for East Tennessee State University.
From the Kingsport Times-News:
After a decade-long hiatus, ETSU has recently rebooted its football program under the supervision of former University of Tennessee head coach Phillip Fulmer. Last month, ETSU hired former University of North Carolina coach Carl Torbush as the university’s new head coach for the program.
“I’m so proud to have football coming back to the East Tennessee State University. College is first and foremost about academics but a full and complete college experience is crucial to attracting top top-quality students to the university,” said Lt. Governor Ramsey.
“The return of football to the ETSU campus will enrich university life in so many ways. But the first step to building a great football program is building a high-quality facility. I’m excited that the commission has approved this outstanding project.”
— Privatized Housing at U of M
The long-delayed Highland Row project near the University of Memphis may finally start construction this fall, as a result of a new affiliation agreement U of M is proposing with a private nonprofit developer for the residential space in the upper floors of the multiuse center, reports the Commercial Appeal. The university asked the State Building Commission Thursday to fast-track approval of an agreement with Alabama-based Collegiate Housing Foundation that will help arrange financing. Under the agreement, rental of the apartments will be limited to U of M students, faculty and staff and the University of Memphis name will be affixed to the privately owned and managed facility.
…Memphis-based Poag & McEwen Lifestyle Centers announced the $65 million Highland Row in 2008 but was unable to obtain financing when the recession deepened. It will have retail space on its ground floor, anchored by a 40,000-square-foot full-service Barnes & Noble bookstore that will serve as the university’s official bookstore.
Apartments were always planned for the upper three floors but the affiliation agreement is new, putting the U of M brand on it as “affiliated housing” and limiting occupancy to about 550 students and employees.
The Tennessee branch of an online university was launched Tuesday with a $30 million budget, including $5 million in state funding authorized by initially-reluctant legislators at the urging of Gov. Bill Haslam.
Western Governors University-Tennessee will target adult students seeking a new career, particularly those who have done some college classes but never graduated, Haslam said. He and WGU President Robert W. Mendenhall signed a “memorandum of understanding” to start the program at a news conference.
WGU will offer bachelor and master degrees in four areas – business, K-12 teacher education, information technology and health professions, including nursing.
Knox County School Superintendent Jim McIntyre, who serves on WGU Tennessee Advisory Board, said it offers “an opportunity for great strides in the future” by providing “a cadre of very well-prepared teachers to add to our workforce.”
News release from Vanderbilt University:
NASHVILLE, Tenn. – James R. Sasser, a former three-term U.S. senator from Tennessee and ambassador to the People’s Republic of China, and his wife, Mary Sasser, have donated their papers to Vanderbilt University’s Special Collections.
“We are deeply grateful that Jim and Mary Sasser, treasured alumni who have devoted their lives to outstanding public service on behalf of Tennessee and the nation, have chosen Vanderbilt as the home for their archives,” Chancellor Nicholas S. Zeppos said. “Having first-hand information from Jim’s career as a senator and ambassador and from Mary’s work in bridging cultures will offer Vanderbilt scholars an invaluable level of insight into a vital time in our world’s history. These papers will be a pivotal part of the work of researchers for many generations to come in advancing understanding of global affairs.”
“Mary and I have chosen Vanderbilt as the home for our records because in many ways it is where our journey began,” James Sasser said. “We met as students there in the ’50s and the education that it provided us, as undergraduates and then for me as a law student, proved to be the foundation for decades of public service for which we are both enormously grateful. We are hopeful that this record, and all of the stories that it tells, will be useful to future students, scholars and researchers.”
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A new University of Tennessee report finds that if the federal government decides to go ahead with divesting the Tennessee Valley Authority, the public utility could be broken up among several private power generators in the region.
The study conducted by the school’s Howard H. Baker Jr. Center for Public Policy was released on Monday. It finds that it would be unlikely that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission would approve the sale of the entire TVA to a single company.
President Barack Obama’s 2014 budget proposal calls for a strategic review of the TVA, the nation’s largest public utility with 9 million customers in seven states from Virginia to Mississippi.
The TVA was created in 1933 to control flooding and bring electricity to rural Appalachia.
The University of Tennessee board of trustees ended its two-day summer meeting by approving the system’s nearly $2 billion budget that includes a 6 percent tuition increase, some new student fees, and pay raises for faculty and staff, reports the News Sentinel. But not without a lot of discussion and even some debate — especially about the proposed tuition increase.
Trustee Crawford Gallimore said he hopes the system is able to demonstrate to taxpayers that “raising tuition is the last resort … and not as just a matter of course that we do every year.”
Student trustee Shalin Shah said he believed students would pay the increase if they understood the reasons for it.
“We have to make the message simple and we have to put it out there,”‘ Shah said. “We’re the Twitter generation, we have to keep it to 42 words or less otherwise we’re not going to get it. That’s just the way it’s going to be.”
Trustee Doug Horne proposed a 3 percent tuition increase, saying the trustees should try to show that they “deserve” additional funds from the state.
“I personally feel like we should show a little bit more initiative here and not raise tuition this much,” he said. “I’ve expressed this to the president. I think we show the students first and the Legislature second that we’re putting our best foot forward to making a monumental effort to not raise tuition this much. I’d personally like to raise it none.”
But other board members said they had already agreed to the figure.
“The 6 percent is somewhat of a studied, evaluated and compromised number,” said Don Stansberry, the board’s vice chairman. “It was worked out in cooperation with the governor, Legislature, administration and university officials. It does weigh the interests of the students and it weighs the interests of the institutions.”
The University of Memphis and Southwest Tennessee Community College will receive less money from the state in the upcoming school yard than in the current year because of the Complete College Act passed by the Legislature in 2010, reports the Commercial Appeal. The Memphis schools are the only two among the Tennessee Board of Regents’ six universities and 13 community colleges that the new formula would have cut for the 2013-14 school year if the extra money wasn’t available, according to TBR figures.
The new outcomes-based formula takes into account the colleges’ and universities’ success in such factors as retaining students, advancing them steadily toward degrees and awarding degrees and other credentials. As a result, the schools are placing new emphasis on student success, including tutoring and advising centers.
U of M and Regents officials emphasize that the University of Memphis had positive outcomes under the formula and that the indicated reduction is due to other factors.
U of M faces a $737,300 reduction in its recurring funding from state appropriations for 2013-14 — but a one-time, or nonrecurring, appropriation of $1,976,600 will more than offset that reduction — for one year only.
Southwest Tennessee Community College is losing $2.2 million in recurring state funding and is getting about $1.2 million in nonrecurring funding, for a net reduction from the state of about $1 million. The Board of Regents is expected to approve tuition increases of 3 percent for the community colleges and 6 percent at the U of M later this month, to round out the institutions’ operational funding.
In contrast, the other five Regents universities will receive increased recurring funding from the state ranging from $893,100 at Tennessee State University in Nashville to $3.7 million at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville. And the 12 other community colleges will receive increases ranging from $463,100 at Volunteer State in Gallatin to $4.7 million at Chattanooga State.
TBR figures indicate that when the so-called “hold harmless” money — it holds the campuses “harmless” from funding cuts — ends after the upcoming school year, institutions on the lower end of the outcomes model could face state funding cuts unless the governor and legislature provide real increases in higher education operational funding across the board. They did that this year, for the first time in nearly a decade.
David G. Zettergren, vice president for business and finance at the U of M, said the university is taking several steps to control costs to compensate for state appropriation reductions while continuing to serve students. They include “streamlining, consolidating and reorganizing offices and services,” he said.
Memphis lawyer John Farris, a Board of Regents member and chairman of its Finance and Business Operations Committee, said he’s disappointed with the impact of base funding cuts on the Memphis schools.
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Twenty-one leaders of Tennessee’s colleges and universities have sent a letter to the state’s two U.S. senators urging their support for immigration reform that will allow more graduates to remain in the country after they finish their education.
The letter dated Wednesday asks Republican Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker to back a bi-partisan plan that would ensure foreign-born students educated in U.S. universities will have a clear path to work in this country after graduation.
The educators say current immigration policy threatens “America’s pre-eminence as a global center of innovation and prosperity” because of its inability to retain skilled foreign-born graduates.
Some members of Congress want a bill that includes a pathway to citizenship for immigrants here illegally, an idea that’s been met with deep skepticism by some lawmakers.
— Note: A list of those signing is below.
A federal magistrate judge today ordered a former University of Tennessee Foundation executive to be jailed pending trial in a child pornography case, reports the News Sentinel.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Clifford Shirley cited as a primary cause the fact that Bruce O. Downsbrough admitted to investigators that he had molested as many as five boys in the past.
“Taking away child pornography (as a condition of release) could actually increase the potential for contact offenses,” Shirley ruled.
Downsbrough, 60, who until last week was chief operating officer for the foundation, pleaded guilty to sexual assault on a child and sexual assault in the third degree in a 1986 Colorado case, according to testimony. The victims, according to testimony today, were ages 10 and 11.
Knoxville Police Department Investigator Tom Evans testified that Downsbrough told him he paid roughly $3,500 for counseling for the two boys.
In one case he was given a two-year deferred sentence, and the case was eventually dismissed. In the second case, he was sentenced to two years of probation, according to testimony.
It was not clear from testimony whether that conviction remains on his record.
A federal grand jury last week in East Tennessee returend a four-count indictment against Downsbrough alleging he either received in the mail or downloaded some 20,000 child pornography images as well as several videos.
His house in the Knoxville area was searched in November. He remained employed by the UT Foundation during a follow-up investigation. He was indicted last week and then terminated from his position as chief operating officer.
From the News Sentinel:
A top officer over the University of Tennessee Foundation is facing federal child porn charges, accused of downloading and possessing illegal material on a laptop.
Bruce O. Downsbrough, the chief operating officer and executive vice president of the foundation, UT’s fundraising arm, was taken into custody Tuesday morning by agents with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, U.S. Postal Service and authorities with the Knoxville Police Department.
He has been placed on administrative leave. The investigation does not appear to be related to his duties at UT, said spokeswoman Gina Stafford in statement.
He faces a four-count indictment, which was unsealed Tuesday in U.S. District Court.
The indictment alleges that on Dec. 4, 2008, Downsbrough downloaded child pornography. He is again accused of downloading the material on Feb. 8, 2009 and on an unspecified date in April 2012.
The charging document indicates that federal authorities searched Downsbrough’s home on Nov. 16, 2012. According to records, they discovered 19 digital video discs as well as images on a computer hard drive.
Full story HERE