Haslam: No interest in becoming UT president, just in downsizing board

While pitching his plans for downsizing the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees to Knox County legislators, Gov. Bill Haslam declared he has no interest in becoming UT president after leaving office next year, reports Victor Ashe in his weekly column.

After brief discussion of legislation on opioids, the conversation shifted, with the governor raising the possibility of cutting the size of the UT board of trustees from 26 to nine.

Most attendees (minus Martin Daniel, who was out of town) agreed the current board is too large, but no one signed off immediately on cutting the board size by 65 percent. Eleven or 13 might be the final number. The model would be the six universities that last year were freed from the Board of Regents, each getting a nine-member board. UT covers the whole state.

There has been strong criticism of the current UT board for appearing disengaged, seldom discussing issues in public, making it difficult for the public to appear before the board, staying silent on the $18 million payout for fired athletic directors and football coaches, ignoring the Lady Vols name controversy for three years despite 25,000 Tennesseans signing a petition to restore it. Vice Chair Raja Jubran has literally begged trustees to speak up given legislative criticism, but he gets few takers.

The governor said a smaller board could be more effective. He offered to be removed from the board (he does not attend many meetings) and he suggested the commissioner of education could go. What was not discussed was that the outgoing governor would be able to appoint all the new trustees prior to leaving office a year from now, leaving the next governor removed from the board and few appointments for the first part of the new term for the new governor.

Haslam also told the legislators that he has no interest in being UT president and removed himself as a potential contender, which he has not stated publicly before. He does plan to live in Knoxville.

Not discussed, but lurking in the background, is the realization among many that UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport has had a weak first year. She still has not filled the Provost’s position. It is hard to justify this vacancy lasting so long.

When Davenport announced her opposition to outsourcing some current jobs, it is true several trustees disagreed publicly with her (which was unique), but not one asked her to explain in detail why she did what she did. Why?

One Response to Haslam: No interest in becoming UT president, just in downsizing board

  • David Price III says:

    He shouldn’t stop with leadership. Downsizing the bloat at UT and their toxic divisive diversity and other liberal initiatives would yield more long term improvements.

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