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UT Plans to Shift Audiology/Speech Path to Health Science Center; Academic Program, Clinics to Stay in Knoxville

September 18, 2008

KNOXVILLE -- The audiology and speech pathology program will continue operations and remain in Knoxville but will be administered by the UT Health Science Center, according to a plan outlined at the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees Executive and Compensation Committee meeting today.

The plan must be approved by the Board of Trustees when it meets Oct. 23-24 in Knoxville.

"This is a win-win solution for everyone," UT Knoxville Interim Chancellor Jan Simek said. "The audiology and speech pathology program and its services will be under an umbrella that's far more appropriate.

"This plan offers an increased potential for graduate work and increased opportunities to provide much-needed services to communities around the state."

Although the academic program and the clinics will remain in Knoxville, the plan calls for administration of the department to be transferred to the College of Allied Health Sciences at UT Health Science Center, which has its main campus in Memphis.

The plan calls for the clinics to remain open and the graduate program to continue. Undergraduate courses will be offered for students who need them as prerequisites to graduate work or as components of other majors, although students will no longer be able to earn bachelor's degrees in audiology or speech pathology. Currently enrolled undergraduates will be able to finish and graduate.

"Opportunities exist for us to expand the clinical and academic faculty and increase the number of students. This is really a plan for us to get bigger and better," said Ilsa Schwarz, head of the audiology and speech pathology department.

"Becoming part of the Health Science Center will be a good fit because we will be working with other academic departments that have clinical training requirements. There will be an immediate understanding of what we do and some of the issues that surround departments like ours," she said.

The Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology was one of three programs recommended for phased closure by the Knoxville campus administration in response to an $11 million budget cut for 2008-2009. At the request of Simek, the recommendation was tabled to give more time to study the issue and address concerns.

A group representing the president, chancellor, the College of Arts and Sciences, the audiology and speech pathology department, the UT Health Science Center and others devised the plan after studying alternatives that would allow the program to continue to meet the educational and clinical needs of Tennesseans.

For Knoxville, cost savings will be realized because the department will no longer be part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

"The addition of the speech and audiology program to the College of Allied Health Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center serves not only to strengthen the college as we recruit for a new dean but also serves to facilitate our statewide presence in the delivery of clinical care, community service, research and education," said Ken Brown, executive vice chancellor and chief of staff at the UT Health Science Center.

UT officials are seeking funding sources to help Memphis with front-end costs. In the long term, Memphis officials say they plan to work on making the clinics more self-sustaining.

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Contacts:

Amy Blakely, (865) 974-5034 or (865) 789-1692, amy.blakely@tennessee.edu

Karen Collins (865) 974-5186 or 865-216-6862, karen.collins@tennessee.edu

Gina Stafford (865) 974-0741, stafford@tennessee.edu