The Senate Education Committee voted to recommend two UT Trustees for confirmation on Wednesday, unanimously recommending Trustee John Tickle, who is serving his first term on the Board, and recommending on a 7-1-1 vote Jim Murphy, who has served the University as a Trustee for 12 years. The recommendations now move to the full Senate for a final vote.
While there was little debate over Tickle’s confirmation, Murphy faced pointed questioning by several Committee members who focused on the Board’s willingness to intervene in campus matters such as the Lady Vols branding decision, diversity and inclusion efforts, and student-led “Sex Week.” Senator Brian Kelsey (R-Germantown) ultimately voted against Murphy’s confirmation, citing Murphy’s decision as Board Vice Chair not to place the Lady Vols branding decision on the Board of Trustees agenda after receiving a letter from members of the General Assembly asking him to do so.
“Is it your position here today that if you receive a letter from 5 plus legislators, as long as you view it as a campus issue, you will not put it on the agenda to discuss?” Kelsey asked. “We would try to get the campus to address it before it gets to the Board,” Murphy stated, clarifying later that legislative concerns certainly aren’t ignored by the Board, but that at times, issues do not warrant being placed on the Board agenda for its formal meetings.
Senator Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald) elected not to vote on Murphy’s confirmation after questioning recent activity and leadership on the UT Knoxville campus related to diversity and inclusion efforts.
The Senate Education Chair, Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), ended the confirmation hearing stating, “Let me be very clear, our experience here on the Hill dealing with “Sex Week” two years in a row… there should have been some specific communication of leadership taken at those times not to even mention what has been happening most recently…We’re not in the business of micromanaging but when we don’t see something happening then something will happen.”
She continued, “I’m tempted not to vote for your confirmation, but I will vote for [it] because I want you to go back and tell that Board that we are serious. We are very serious about the face that UT gives to this country, and they’ve put us in a position of national scandal and embarrassment more than once in the last few years. More than once! Twice, at least four times, and we’ve seen nothing from the Board.”
Trustee John Tickle’s confirmation resolution is set for approval by the Senate on Monday’s consent calendar. Trustee Jim Murphy’s resolution was pulled from the Senate’s consent calendar and will be sent to the Senate Calendar Committee for placement on the regular calendar.
You can watch the archived Committee deliberations below.