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UT President Emphasizes Commitment to Student Safety

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UT President Joe DiPietro gives his report to the Board of Trustees.
Photo by Nathan Morgan

MARTIN – Declaring even a single incident of sexual assault “one too many,” University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro told UT trustees the work of raising awareness and protecting students is ongoing and not new.

DiPietro’s remarks came during his report to the full board at its spring meeting, which took place on the UT Martin campus. DiPietro said University officials will be satisfied with nothing less than the safety of all students, faculty and staff.

“Be assured, we will never be complacent on issues of sexual violence, and it is a priority for every University of Tennessee campus and institute,” DiPietro said. “At UT, we believe strongly that every single incident is one too many.”

Among more recent efforts to raise awareness of or prevent sexual assault, DiPietro cited:

  • Enhanced awareness programs and educational resources to support and better educate students regarding sexual violence.
  • Made student code of conduct improvements to ensure consistent and appropriate action when incidents are reported.
  • Hosted a sexual assault training event for campus police, student support services and Title IX investigators in collaboration with other public and private universities across the state in 2015.
  • Implemented a new online training program related to sexual assault and harassment, stalking and intimate partner violence.
Trustee John Foy speaks as acting chair of the Academic Affairs and Student Success Committee.
Trustee John Foy speaks as acting chair of the Academic Affairs and Student Success Committee.

Turning to another high-profile priority, DiPietro also stressed the importance of diversity and inclusion efforts across the UT system, noting a foundation has been laid for continuing a statewide dialogue.

“While the journey has been challenging, the good news is we have helped more people understand what diversity means at the University of Tennessee, and that it goes beyond issues of race, sexual orientation and gender expression,” he said.

In 2017, plans are to conduct a system-wide diversity climate survey for a snapshot of campus life and experiences. The information will be used to improve diversity and inclusion at all UT campuses and institutes.

UT Martin Interim Chancellor Robert Smith updates the Board of Trustees on the accreditation status.
UT Martin Interim Chancellor Robert Smith updates the Board of Trustees on the accreditation status.

Succession planning has become a pressing need, DiPietro said, noting that 40 percent of the University’s 103 senior leaders become eligible for retirement in the next five years. He outlined plans to develop a succession planning model, aided by consultants.

After a request-for-proposals process, the University selected The Oliver Group, based in Louisville, Kentucky, to help create the planning model and implement it as a pilot on one of UT’s campuses. After testing, the University’s human resources team will roll it out across the System.

Also, the University awaits cost savings validation in the ongoing facilities outsourcing discussion, DiPietro told trustees. He noted that the opportunity to opt out exists even after state costs are validated and compared, and proposals are received. Chancellors of each UT campus or institute will decide whether outsourcing is appropriate for their campuses and, if so, will have to justify the decisions to the University and Board.

The UT Board of Trustees honored former UT Martin Chancellor Tom Rakes, who retired in May of 2015.
The UT Board of Trustees honored former UT Martin Chancellor Tom Rakes, who retired in May of 2015.

In other business, the board:

  • Ratified revisions to fiscal year 2015-16 goals for participating senior executives under the performance-based variable compensation plan, and a methodology for calculating the score. Changes included eliminating metrics such as total fall headcount, revenue from licenses, U.S. patents and number of alumni who donate. Added were state appropriations and tuition per student full-time equivalency and research award dollars.
  • Approved the four-year comprehensive performance review of UT Institute of Agriculture Chancellor Larry Arrington with a recommended 10 percent salary increase. The increase brings Arrington’s base salary to $333,208, comparable to similar higher education leadership positions elsewhere in the United States.
  • Re-named the UT Knoxville Center for Business and Economic Research the Boyd Center for Business and Economic Research, in honor of Randy and Jenny Boyd; and a new residence hall on Lake Loudoun Boulevard was named the Stokely Family Residence Hall. It is being built on the site of the former Gibbs Hall and the William B. Stokely Athletics Center. The name honors the Stokely family’s more than 100-year commitment of support to UT.
  • Renamed the UT-Oak Ridge National Laboratory Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences the Schull-Wollan Center: A Joint Institute for Neutron Sciences. The new name is to honor Clifford Shull and E.O. Wollan, founders of neutron science who worked at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. Wollan died in 1984. Shull won the 1994 Nobel Prize in physics for his work with Wollan and others.
  • Heard updates to UT Knoxville’s Vol Vision 2020 strategic plan. Updates reported include increasing goals for first- to second-year retention from 87 percent to 90 percent; and for six-year graduation rate from 69 percent to 80 percent. In addition to increasing research expenditures and narrowing salary gaps, other goals include increasing doctoral degrees awarded annually from 317 to 365 and the number of master’s or professional degrees awarded annually from 1,811 to 2,083.
  • Cut UT Martin’s undergraduate out-of-state tuition and maintenance fees for 2016-17 by 33 percent, or to $6,720 per semester, as part of a new UT Martin undergraduate tuition model to be more competitive with peer and competitor institutions.
  • Listened as UT Martin Interim Chancellor Robert Smith reported on steps the campus is taking toward removing the probationary status from its accreditation. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges assigned probation because the campus had not finished documenting its work to address five recommendations from its 2013 visit. Officials stressed that the value and quality of the UT Martin degree remain as strong as ever, and that the accreditation matter is related to documentation. An accreditation team will return for another site visit in October and issue its recommendation in December.
  • Approved awarding an honorary doctoral degree at UT Knoxville to Thom Mason during spring 2016 commencement. Mason has been director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) since 2007, and under his leadership, ORNL scientists have discovered new elements of the periodic table and partnered in creating the $259 million Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation. In the past 10 years the number of joint ORNL and UT Knoxville faculty appointments increased from 46 to 235.
  • Passed a resolution honoring Tom Rakes, who retired as UT Martin chancellor in 2015. The resolution noted Rakes’ role in leading UT Martin’s expansion into West Tennessee, in growth in UT Martin’s online enrollment, in completing more than $100 million in capital building and maintenance projects, and in UT Martin surpassing its campus fundraising goal of more than $57 million in the 2005 $1 billion Campaign for Tennessee.

The University of Tennessee is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin and Memphis; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT system manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 50,000 students statewide; produces about 10,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 360,000 alumni around the world.

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Category: Headlines