Student programming was a hot topic at Friday afternoon’s Board of Trustees meeting, with UT Student Government Association President Natalie Campbell addressing the board as a representative for students at each UT System campus.

At the forefront of most controversy on campus over the past year lies the Student Programming Allocation Committee, which was disbanded after a report by Interim President Randy Boyd. Student programming and its allocation has faced issues such as partial reallocation to a travel fund, uncertain future and several pauses in process. 

Student programming allocations have not been made for the fall, and Campbell said organizations face a “very challenging process of conceptualizing, planning, and executing a program.”

“If an organization needed university funding, they used to have to go before a board called SPAC to propose and defend all of the details of their program that teaches significant skills,” Campbell said. “This is student programming through and through, beginning to end, thought of by students, planned for by students, funded by student fees, approved with the input of students, and attended by students.”

The Student Programming and Services Fee currently funds all programming on campus, with students having the choice to “opt-in” or “opt-out” each semester. Students who choose to opt in (option 1) allow the university to use the fee for student programming on campus, and, in turn, those students receive free access or discounted admission to all student programming such as Vol Night Long and guest speakers. Students who choose to opt out (option 2) tell the university to use the fee for initiatives and events that are not student-led.

“There is something special to (the student programming) process, and how it enriches learning outside of the classroom, with skills ...for life after college, as well as the way that student voice is the imperative and is at the core of this old process that we had.”

Campbell shared a proposed SPSF Allocation system, including a denial of SPSF funds to events sponsored or cosponsered by student organization that are part of the concept or development of the program, “which are no longer programs by students, but are programs for students.”

If staff were given the responsibility of student programming, Campbell said, it could be detrimental for both students and the staff tasked with coordinating the events.

Boyd addressed some of the main concerns students have had in regard to the changes affecting SPAC.

“The process that we were trying to create was one that would be consistent at each campus, and after a lot of struggle, it turns out that the campuses agreed that it is very difficult to do that,” Boyd said, adding that there is currently a redraft of the proposal underway.

“Students will still have the right to free speech, students will still have the right to program,” Boyd said. “Any programming that the university supports will have student voice and student input; we can commit to that.”

The system draft will be revisited with student input before the committee votes on the proposal.

Board sets tuition rates, decides increase collaboration

The Board set tuition rates for the 2019-2020 school, with undergraduate tuition increases kept at 3 percent of lower for the fifth year in a row. Tuition at UT Knoxville will sit at 2 percent, with 2.5 percent at UT Chattanooga and UT Martin.

Boyd said keeping tuition low helps the system make higher education affordable to more Tennesseeans.

“Land grant institutions were created to assist the working class and lower class to move up. We, at the University of Tennessee, are not about exclusion, but about inclusion,” Boyd said. “We are working to keep tuition low and with the creation of the UT Promise, which will start in 2020, to help families with yearly incomes of less than $50,000 to provide a ladder up to Tennesseans.”

The Education, Research and Service Committee presented the proposals to unify the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture and the University of Tennessee to create the Oak Ridge Institute (ORI), which is aimed at drawing UT closer in collaboration with the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. After an unanimous vote, the measure passed and will be revisited at the next board meeting in November for further action.

The Strategic Plan for 2019-2025 was also presented, in which there are 5 different pillars, with the underscoring goal of expanding diversity and inclusion across all goal areas, including student recruitment and involvement in research.

The resolution passed unanimously, with efforts anticipated to start in mid-July to fine tune the parameters of each of the metrics, discuss the resources available, and identifying key risks and opportunities of the plan’s implementation.

Editor-in-Chief Kylie Hubbard contributed to this article. 

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