- University of Tennessee at Knoxville has a new chancellor one day after Beverly Davenport, the embattled chancellor there, was publicly dismissed. UT Knoxville engineering dean Wayne Davis, who has served as a faculty member and academic executive for more than 40 years, is stepping into the role, according to the Times Free-Press.
- Davenport was fired by way of a scathing letter issued by UT System President Joe DiPietro, who criticized her as disorganized, a poor communicator and unwilling to accept corrective feedback. The Times Free-Press chronicled the rough 16-month term of service for Davenport, who also was criticized for her handling of athletic executive and coaching hires, campus free speech flaps and her rejection of a proposal to outsource facility management statewide that was championed by Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslem.
- Davenport will return to teaching in the flagship's school of communication and will earn 75% of her annual $585,000 salary for the next five years.
Several public system flagship campuses have contended with administrative shakeups in the last three years, including the University of Louisville, Florida A&M University and the University of California, Berkeley, which were among the most public and controversial. All the dismissals followed a common thread — campus-based angst that drew the attention and commentary of state legislators.
This element of higher ed administration, the influence of lawmakers in campus decisions and culture, is one that has claimed executive positions, helped to fill others and created a great hesitancy among those who are considering careers as campus CEOs. This influence was referenced in a recent report developed to aid Pennsylvania lawmakers in their efforts to reduce higher education spending and went as far as recommending ways that lawmakers could be limited in their engagement with campuses.
With the amount of public resources and political capital attached to meddling in higher education, there's little chance lawmakers will stay out of campus affairs anytime soon, even at some of the nation's biggest and most productive public universities.