UT board backs DiPietro in chancellor firing condemned by Faculty Senate

The outgoing University of Tennessee board of trustees passed a resolution Thursday giving a vote of full confidence to UT President Joe DiPietro, reports the Associated Press. The move was a direct response to the Faculty Senate’s censure of the president for ousting the flagship school’s first female chancellor.

Vice Chairman Raja Jubran said DiPietro had always had the best interest of the UT system at heart and had restored confidence in the office of the presidency.

“Joe has been a tireless advocate and supporter of faculty across the UT System, and has approached every matter with the goal of doing what was in the best interest of the institution,” Jubran said. “I think it’s extremely important to set the record straight and commend Joe for everything he has done for the University.”

In its decision to censure DiPietro’s action Monday, the faculty Senate accused him of failing to be transparent on controversial issues such as outsourcing jobs on campuses and the post-tenure review of professors. But it also mentioned the termination letter DiPietro sent to then-Chancellor Beverly Davenport. Some Senate members who read it said they found its tone blistering and highly personal. The letter was released in response to a public records request.

In it, DiPietro rated as “very poor” Davenport’s one-on-one, small-group and business-transactional communication skills. He also said she had a poor relationship with him and his leadership team, had been unable to acclimate to the UT system, lacked organization, and failed to communicate a strategic vision for the campus. Davenport was placed on administrative leave with pay until June 30, and is to be reassigned as a faculty member in the university’s college of communication and information.

… The United Campus Workers, a union of higher education employees, has condemned the firing of Davenport, calling it retaliation for her opposition to the outsourcing of jobs on campus, a move pushed by Gov. Bill Haslam.

Haslam and Jubran both have said the outsourcing issue played no part in her dismissal. At Thursday’s board meeting, Jubran asserted that this was nothing more than a toxic rumor that had spread on campus. And former Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe wrote columns criticizing Davenport’s leadership in the local news media.

The union wasn’t buying it.

“Jubran, DiPietro and Haslam can all swear that they won’t keep pursuing a privatization agenda, but the fact is they’ve fired the one person in the administration who took action to stop it, and liquidated the board that did not overturn her decision (though cuts are being forced by DiPietro and Jubran in retaliation),” union leaders said in a statement Thursday.

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