CINCINNATI (AP) — John McGlone went to the University of Tennessee campus in Knoxville intent on preaching God’s word to college students but found himself tangled up with university administrators over a policy requiring student sponsorship to speak at the school.
After seeing his request denied, McGlone, a traveling evangelist from Breeding, Ky., sued the university, but lost. Now, a three-judge panel from the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati is weighing whether the university’s restrictions pass constitutional muster.
Judges Boyce Martin, John M. Rogers and John Tarnow quizzed attorneys for McGlone and the school Tuesday, pressing each side on whether there are permissible restrictions for on-campus speech and if the ones at Tennessee go too far.
“What about going to a football game?” Martin asked the school’s attorney. “Is everyone there an invitee? What if you don’t have a ticket? What if you just want to tailgate?”
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A former University of Tennessee trustee says more women should be appointed to the board.
There are thousands more women than men enrolled on the four UT campuses, but only seven women sit on the 26-member board that oversees the operations of the state’s nameplate university. Three of them have only one-year terms as faculty and student representatives.
Anne Holt Blackburn, a Nashville television news anchor on WKRN-TV, cycled off the board when her six-year term expired in June. She said female members are more passionate about certain issues than men on the board are and the women think differently about issues.
“The more diverse we are, the better service we can give our state, Blackburn said.”
The Knoxville News Sentinel (http://bit.ly/TYSoH7) reported since taking office, Gov. Bill Haslam has maintained the status quo, appointing three men and one woman to replace the same number of each gender whose terms expired. He has not yet appointed Blackburn’s replacement.
“One of the challenges we have is making sure we represent the whole state both geographically, which we have to by statute, and with diversity in terms of gender and race and background of experience,” Haslam said before the Board of Trustees meeting on the Agriculture campus earlier this month.
“Running a university system the size of UT right now, it’s a complex institution, so we need to make sure we have the right background and the right insight,” Haslam said.
As governor, Haslam is a voting member of the UT Board of Trustees.
Merrill Schwartz, director of research at the Association of Governing Boards, said the percentage of women on governing boards of public universities nationwide more than doubled between 1977 and 1997, but has plateaued.
The UT board is slightly below the national average in female membership.
“If the goal is 50 percent, then that’s a long way to go,” Schwartz said.
Judith Glazer-Raymo, a faculty member at Columbia University who studies gender issues and higher education, said women assets to governing board because of they are often more collaborative and they tent to see the issues that are important to faculty and students.
“Teamwork and collaboration are important characteristics of a governing board,” she said.
Chas Sisk reports that Gov. Bill Haslam, who is chairman of the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees, supports the decision to fire UT football coach Derek Dooley…. but has no opinion on a successor or the salary he should be paid. “Ultimately college football at a school as big as Tennessee, it is about results,” Haslam said. “I like Derek a lot. I think he in a lot of ways brought a lot of things to the program … but for Tennessee to have the football program they need, they need to have a better won-lost record than they’ve had for the last three years.”
Haslam said he did not have a favorite to replace Dooley. Nor would he say how much Dooley’s replacement should be paid — an issue for the UT athletic department as it faces a budget crunch after buying out its third coach’s contract in less than five years.
“I don’t think ultimately that’s the governor’s decision,” he said. “In the end, the reality is Tennessee football is a big revenue-producing sport, and it helps finance scholarships for the rest of the school student body as well as a lot of the other, non-revenue-producing sports. In order for Tennessee to work, they need to have a successful program.”
People purchasing tickets to University of Tennessee athletic events pay a 5 percent “amusement tax” in addition to other levies, with the revenue earmarked for the City of Knoxville and Knox County. UT officials would like to keep the money – about $1.5 million per year – for UT purposes, reports the News Sentinel. For decades the University of Tennessee has sought to eliminate the tax.
The university, however, does not want to lower ticket prices, said Senior Associate Athletic Director Bill Myers. Rather, UT Athletics want to keep roughly $1.5 million it’s currently collecting on behalf of the city and county and use it toward planned construction projects and making up the $4 million budget shortfall the athletics department faced last year.
The tax dates back to state legislation passed in the 1940s and applies only to Knox County. The law has since been whittled down with exemptions over the years and now largely targets movie theatres outside the central business district and regular-season college athletic events in Thompson-Boling Arena and Neyland Stadium.
“We’re the only entity in the state that pays this tax — I’m talking about university athletic programs,” said Chancellor Jimmy Cheek. “Vanderbilt doesn’t pay it, University of Memphis doesn’t pay it, ETSU doesn’t pay it. It’s a state law that affects only Knox County.”
It’s an unfair tax, he said.
…Though the money is a small portion of the city’s roughly $180 million general fund budget, it’s revenue the city does not want to do without, said Knoxville Law Director Charles Swanson. If it disappears, he said, the city may have to raise other taxes to make up the difference.
City officials appreciate the value of having the university nearby and the economic stimulus that fans bring when they come to town, but it presents challenges that cost money to deal with, he said.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Former Lady Vols media director Debby Jennings has filed a lawsuit against the University of Tennessee and athletic director Dave Hart alleging that age and sex discrimination led to her forced retirement from the school where she had worked for 35 years.
Hart and other athletic officials wanted to remodel the athletic department as a “good ol’ boys” club while replacing her with a younger man, Jennings charges in the lawsuit filed Thursday with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee. Jennings was 57 years old when she left her job in May as the university worked toward consolidating the men’s and women’s athletic departments.
The suit also alleges that Hart forced former Lady Vols basketball coach Pat Summitt to step down at the end of last season. David Burkhalter, the lawyer representing Jennings, said the university retaliated against his client when she protested that Summitt’s early onset dementia protected her under the Americans With Disabilities Act.
Summitt, who remains on staff as the Lady Vols’ head coach emeritus, indicated during the April news conference announcing her retirement that the move was her own decision.
Members of the University of Tennessee Faculty Senate called a letter Monday from the campus chancellors regarding benefits for same-sex partners “appalling,” reports the News Sentinel. The letter sent by Chancellors Larry Arrington and Jimmy Cheek, followed a request for a response by the faculty after it drafted a resolution in April supporting education, leave and health benefits for same-sex couples that mirror what is offered to married couples.
…”We hope you understand that in our positions as leaders of an agency of the State of Tennessee, it is incumbent upon us to act consistently with the public policy of our state,” the letter reads.
The chancellors wrote that the three faculty proposals — offering education credits, leave to care for partners and their children, and family health care coverage that is consistent with what the university provides married spouses — are “inconsistent with the public policy of our state outlined in constitutional and statutory provisions.”
Faculty senators, however, expressed frustration that the three-paragraph letter left no room for dialogue, did not explain which laws such benefits would violate and did not offer alternative solutions.
“This seemed to be a three-sentence response, and it’s a very sensitive issue, and I’d like to know more in-depth some background on this,” Wanda Costen, an associate professor in the Department of Retail, Hospitality, and Tourism Management, said during the meeting. “This is not one I’m willing to let go lightly.”
Tina Shepardson, an associate professor of religious studies, agreed that the letter was too brief. The resolution passed in April specifically asked for a plan for progress and a response to a list of 33 benefit items, she pointed out.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The University of Tennessee plans to continue allowing pregame prayers at Neyland Stadium after receiving a letter from an organization arguing that the practice is unconstitutional.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent a letter to Tennessee Chancellor Jimmy Cheek asking that the university stop the use of prayer at university functions and sporting events. Cheek released a letter Wednesday in which he said he had discussed the matter with the school’s counsel and was told that “nonsectarian prayer at public university events does not violate the First Amendment.”
Cheek told the Wisconsin-based atheist group that he had given the issue “careful consideration” but that the school would continue to allow prayers before university events.
Annie Laurie Gaylor, the Freedom From Religion Foundation co-president, said the use of the word “nonsectarian” indicates that Tennessee shouldn’t have a clergyman conducting prayers with overt Christian references.
“They’ve been praying to Jesus and inviting clergy to come lead the prayer,” Gaylor said. “Nonsectarian would be (that) you wouldn’t have a member of the clergy who’s tied to a denomination, so they’re not going to talk about Jesus. They shouldn’t be talking about the Bible. In my opinion, they shouldn’t be praying at all.”
Gaylor added that she would encourage students upset with the university’s decision to remain active about the issue.
UT-Chattanooga decided last week to stop its use of a pregame prayer after receiving a similar letter. The public address announcer instead invites the crowd before the national anthem to observe a moment of silence “in consideration of the safety of today’s players, the service of those who protect us at home and abroad and the needs of those who suffer.”
“We didn’t want our events to be something that anyone felt excluded from,” UT-Chattanooga spokesman Chuck Cantrell said. “We recognize that we have a diverse community here in Chattanooga and especially on campus, and we just didn’t want to be doing anything that made any of our guests feel unwelcome. We felt a moment of silence offered equality and parity for everybody.”
— Note: This updates and replaces earlier post.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee’s athletic department posted a $3.98 million deficit for the2011-12 fiscal year that forced it to use a substantial portion of its financial reserves, department officials acknowledged Monday.
Although the athletic department made $106.5 million in revenues, it had $110.5 million in expenses. Those expenses included hefty buyouts to former athletic director Mike Hamilton, football coach Phillip Fulmer, men’s basketball coach Bruce Pearl and baseball coach Todd Raleigh. When Hamilton resigned in June 2011, he received a $1.3 million buyout over three years. Fulmer received a buyout of $6 million over four years after getting fired in 2008.
Tennessee also has more than $200 million in outstanding debt related to the construction and renovation of various athletic facilities on campus.
The deficit, first reported Monday by The Sports Animal radio station in Knoxville, caused the athletic department’s reserves to dip to slightly below $2 million.
Some state legislators are questioning whether new student conduct rules at the University of Tennessee could lead to unwarranted disciplinary action against students who keep guns and knives for legitimate reasons.
“If I read it literally, this would ban most knives with blades 3 inches or longer. But we’re going to just trust the university’s judgment about which ones to take,” said Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, in summarizing one proposed rule and UT officials’ explanation for enforcing it.
“I guess I would agree with that,” replied W. Timothy Rogers, vice chancellor for student life at UT Knoxville.
Rep. Tony Shipley, R-Kingsport, recalled that he kept a shotgun, a pistol and “an assortment of knives” in a UT married student apartment during his student days, occasionally taking the shotgun across university property to his car for a hunting trip. He asked if that would put him in violation of the rules, even considering the apartment was his home.
“It would be a technical violation,” replied Matthew Scoggins, assistant general counsel for UT.
News release from governor’s office:
NASHVILLE – Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam today announced the appointments of seven new members to Tennessee’s higher education boards.
Evan Cope and Adam Jarvis will serve as new members of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC). Vicky Gregg, Shalin Shah and Victoria Steinberg will serve as new members of the University of Tennessee (UT) Board of Trustees. Ashley Humphrey and Dr. Bob Raines will serve as members of the Tennessee Board of Regents (TBR).
The governor serves as chairman of the board of directors for the TBR and UT systems, and in July, Haslam announced his focus on post-secondary education in Tennessee, particularly in the areas of affordability, access, quality and workforce development.
“While college isn’t for everyone, when only 23 percent of Tennesseans have a degree from a four-year institution, we need to do a better job of preparing more students to go to college and to graduate,” Haslam said. “I appreciate the willingness of these men and women to serve the state, and I look forward to working with them as we work to tackle these complex issues.”