View a recording of the webcast here
UT President Joe DiPietro delivered the first ever State of the University address Tuesday evening where he discussed several issues surrounding the university.
DiPietro specifically criticized Tennessee lawmaker's recent attempts to freeze tuition hikes at the university. Senate Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham recently sponsored a bill that would freeze tuition and fees at their current levels until the 2018-19 school year, as well as require a governing-board approval for any tuition increase above 2 percent of the CPI. The law, which received a recommendation of approval from a state senate committee last week, would also fix tuition and other mandatory fees at freshman entry level costs.
Shifting the blame of rising tuition away from faculty salaries, DiPietro assured listeners that a university budget adviser group would continue to explore the problem to develop a solution that best fits the university.
“Sustainable funding remains our problem to own, and we will solve it,” DiPietro said.
Referencing the recent controversy surrounding a post on the Office of Diversity and Inclusion's website suggesting for holiday inclusivity practices, DiPietro remained firm in UT's commitment towards its minority populations.
“Our concept of diversity extends beyond race and ethnicity,” DiPietro said. He referenced Blue Cross Blue Shield, FedEx and Nissan as just a few Tennessee companies that stress the importance of diversity in their business model, similar to the University of Tennessee.
“This does not mean that we seek to create an environment at UT in which everyone agrees with all the ideas and the approaches to life that they encounter,” DiPietro said of the often used criticism against UT's diversity office.
True to his statement released last week, DiPietro stressed that he had not yet made up his mind whether to opt in or out of the state's facility management initiative. DiPietro did meet with state government officials in Nashville to discuss privatization measures on campus prior to the address, though no final decision has yet been made.
“You are well aware that the long arm of government is reaching farther and farther into the operations of UT,” DiPietro said of the recent developments with the legislature, citing a desire to keep the decision process for matters affecting UT to those “who know our university best.”
Vice Chancellor for Facilities Services Dave Irvin publicly criticized Gov. Haslam's privatization measures last week, saying that the move would be a “disaster” for the University of Tennessee system. DiPietro later released a statement calling Irvin's opinions “regrettable” and stressing that he had not yet made a decision.
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