UT FOCUS Act Passes; Appointments, Confirmation Hearings Expected

Category: Higher Education

The Tennessee State Capitol Building at sunset.

The UT FOCUS Act, which would reconstitute and restructure the UT Board of Trustees, was approved by the Senate this week when they concurred with the House version of the bill on a 22-8 vote. The approval sends the measure to the Governor’s desk for his signature, its final stop before becoming state law.

The Haslam Administration proposed the legislation to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the UT Board of Trustees. The University of Tennessee supports the legislation, which is based on best practices for higher education governing boards as described by the national Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB).

In its final version, the bill:

  • Trims Board of Trustees from 27 members to 12 members. Members now include:
    • The Commissioner of Agriculture (ex officio, voting member);
    • 10 Gubernatorial Appointees, subject to confirmation by both the House and Senate; and,
      • There must be at least two per Tennessee grand division, at least five UT alumni, and at least seven Tennessee residents.
      • The Governor shall strive to appoint alumni from different UT campuses.
    • One non-voting student member that will rotate among UT’s campuses.
  • Stipulates that Trustees may be removed by a two-thirds vote by both the Senate and House for “misconduct, incapacity, or neglect of duty.”
  • Statutorily requires four committees of the full Board:  Executive; Audit; Finance & Administration; and Academic Affairs & Student Success. Board has discretion to create other committees as necessary.
    • The Academic Affairs & Student Success Committee includes one voting full-time faculty member. The position rotates among the campuses and the duration of the appointment is one year.
    • The student trustee also serves as a voting member of the Academic Affairs and Student Success Committee.
  • Creates seven member Campus Advisory Boards for UTC, UTK, UTHSC, and UTM.
    • Requires one voting member on each Campus Advisory Board to be a student and one voting member to be a faculty member.
    • The Faculty member will be appointed by the institutions’ Faculty Senate.
    • The student member will be appointed by the Campus Advisory Board.
    • The additional five members will be appointed by the Governor and subject to confirmation by the House and Senate.
  • Campus Advisory Boards will submit recommendations to full Board on campus-level strategic plans, operating budgets, and tuition.
  • On July 1, 2018, the existing UT Board of Trustees will vacate and the UT FOCUS Act transition will occur.
  • The Governor will strive to ensure Boards are composed of members who are diverse in sex, race, perspective, and experience.
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