Board of Trustees Bill Passes in House Education Administration & Planning Committee; Conversation Expected to Continue Next Week

The Tennessee State Capitol Building at sunset.

The UT FOCUS Act, which would reconstitute and restructure the UT Board of Trustees was heard this week in the House Education Administration & Planning Committee. The Haslam Administration has proposed the measure in an effort to help the UT Board of Trustees operate more efficiently.

The University of Tennessee supports the legislation, which is based on best practices for higher education governing boards as described by the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB).

The bill’s House sponsor, Rep. David Hawk (R-Greeneville), introduced a new amendment and asked the committee to remove the amendment adopted last week. This amendment would add one non-voting student member to the overall board, creating a board of 12 members; revise the date of transition from June 1 to July 1; add four standing committees, including the Academic Affairs & Student Success Committee which will include one voting student member and one voting faculty member; and will add legislative intent that the governor should include alumni from each UT campus.

Members of the committee questioned why the student member on the overall Board would not have voting rights. Rep. Hawk emphasized that while the student will not have voting rights, the students will continue to be heard. Rep. Hawk also highlighted the successes of other Universities have been with similar Board structures.

Rep. Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett) introduced several amendments, one of which would adjust the student’s position on the overall Board from a non-voting member to a voting member. All of Rep. Lollar’s amendments ultimately failed.

The bill’s next scheduled hearings are in both the House and Senate Government Operations Committees next week.

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