Of six gubernatorial candidates, only Harwell supports removing governor from UT board

House Speaker Beth Harwell supports Gov. Bill Haslam’s proposal to reduce the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees from 26 to 11 members – including elimination of the governor as a board member, according to a Victor Ashe column. But  five other major candidates for governor want to have a seat on the board if elected.

Randy Boyd, Craig Fitzhugh, Bill Lee and Diane Black all said they thought the governor should be a board member and they would actively attend meetings as governor. Karl Dean said he would actively attend meetings but did not respond to the question of whether the law should be amended to remove the governor.

…Harwell, who responded by phone, said she favored the effort to reduce the size of the UT board and removing the governor.

Diane Black: “The Governor should continue to serve on the Board of Trustees. I support the effort to make the board more effective and efficient, while maintaining representation from across the great state of Tennessee. “But, whoever is Governor must have their finger on the pulse of the UT System. That’s why it’s in the charter and why the Governor should always be the Chairman of the UT System.”

Boyd “does not support removing the Governor as a participating member and chair of the UT Board of Trustees or the Tennessee Board of Regents,” said spokesperson Laine Arnold. “As Governor, Randy will attend and be actively engaged with both boards. Both the UT System and the Tennessee Board of Regents will be central to Randy’s efforts to make Tennessee the Smartest State in the South and to achieve the Drive to 55.”

Karl Dean: “The UT system is absolutely critical to advancing higher education in our state. As governor, I would attend meetings unless circumstances made it impossible to participate in person.”

Craig Fitzhugh: “I do not favor removing the Governor from the UT Board of Trustees. I think the particular makeup of this Board works well with the stature and mission of this University.”

“Having served on several higher education boards and commissions, Bill is looking forward to serving as a board member for the University and would plan on attending meetings regularly,” said spokesperson Chris Walker.

Haslam acknowledges he has not attended many meetings of the UT board he was also elected to chair. That is his right, but other governors have attended more often, such as Lamar Alexander and Ned McWherter. Five candidates say they look forward to attending meetings, so why would the legislature want to remove them from the board? There are only three or four full board meetings out of 365 days.

The real issue is does having the governor present as a voting member work to the benefit of the University of Tennessee. I think the answer is a clear yes if the governor attends.

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