UT Interim President Randy Boyd’s Prepared Remarks for Dec. 18 Sunset Audit Hearing
Presented Dec. 18, 2019 at the Joint Government Operation Sunset Hearings, Education, Health, and General Welfare Subcommittee.
Good Afternoon Chairman Ragan and members of the committee. I am Randy Boyd, Interim President of the University of Tennessee. I appreciate the opportunity to be here with you today to share our thoughts on the comptroller’s report and the actions we will take.
First, I would like to thank the comptroller’s office, under the direction of Comptroller Justin Wilson, for a very comprehensive and thoughtful report. Audits provide us with an opportunity to assess our operations and make us better as an organization. We have, and will continue, to analyze the report findings to identify areas for improvement. I can say broadly, that in the four key areas of focus: improving collaboration and coordination among campuses, having a highly engaged Board of Trustees, improving campus safety, and improving support for mental health, we are in complete agreement. I will share more details about each in a few minutes.
I would also like to thank the members of our Board of Trustees for all of their hard work. I have served on more than 30 boards in my career and have never seen a board as engaged and hardworking as the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees. The volume of materials we share with them and the scope of their oversight is extraordinary, and trustees are doing this voluntarily, with no compensation, because they are committed to our University and our state. I can never thank them enough for all they do.
Now, I will spend a few minutes discussing our plans to address the four key conclusions presented by Comptroller Wilson.
In regards to the report’s conclusions regarding greater coordination, I fully support identifying opportunities to increase communication, coordination and collaboration among the UT campuses.
In my view, the biggest area for opportunity in the UT System has been creating greater coordination. When I was appointed interim president, our campuses were generally operating separately and unaligned. It has been my overriding objective to create and model a “One UT” culture.
Over the past year, we have made great progress, and our campus leaders are regularly thinking more about how to work together and share policies and initiatives.
One mechanism we created to achieve this is the One UT Leadership Council. This includes the senior vice president and senior vice chancellor of the UT Institute of Agriculture, the director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory and all four campus chancellors, meeting in person for a half day each month with me to address key issues and opportunities facing our campuses and the System. This approach is new, ongoing, and aimed at tearing down silos to make us better.
Having face-to-face time with the leadership from across the state is impactful and important. Independently we are all good, but together we are great.
One example of our enhanced coordination is the creation of the UT Promise scholarship program, which was mentioned in the report. Launching in fall 2020, the UT Promise scholarship is the first system-wide needs-based scholarship program aimed at keeping higher education accessible and affordable for Tennessee’s working-class families. Typically, scholarship programs are done at the campus level with the oversight and approval of the chancellor. In this case, all the chancellors worked together so that we could have a unified announcement and a statewide impact.
UT Promise will cover a student’s last-dollar amount of tuition and mandatory fees after other financial aid is applied to students who qualify for the HOPE scholarship and whose family household income is under $50,000 a year.
As a land-grant university, this is a program we are really excited about. You often hear about elitism in higher education with schools comparing themselves to each other in terms of acceptance rate. In my opinion, that is a way of highlighting how many aspiring, and many times in-state, students they keep out of their universities. I believe that is counter to our mission to provide access to Tennesseans. We will continue to aspire to provide a premiere academic experience at an affordable price to as many qualified students who want to be a part of the University of Tennessee.
We also seek to be the leader in taking on the grand challenges our state faces, and when we all work together, we can be incredibly effective. Over the past year, we have held statewide summits to work together to address some of our state’s most pressing issues. In August we led the first statewide Summit for Opioid Addiction and Response, also known as SOAR, in Knoxville with more than 700 stakeholders from across the state, including more than 100 UT faculty and staff members spanning each campus and institute.
Each of our campuses and institutes are doing great work in the areas of opioid and drug addiction and response; however, they weren’t working together to find a common solution. Through SOAR, they were able to come together to talk about the substance misuse epidemic, including the opioid-driven addiction and suicide problem in Tennessee and identify solutions that can be used across the state. Following SOAR, cross-discipline faculty workgroups have been established to ensure we are working together to combat this epidemic for our state and beyond.
In addition to SOAR, we held a mental health summit last month that had fantastic attendance from across the System, and I will touch on that more in a bit.
As we look for ways to create greater collaboration, we have to find opportunities to engage faculty, staff and students. Last month we launched the One UT Innovation and Collaboration Grants to promote the University’s three-pronged mission to educate, discover and connect. The goal of this new program is to support innovative ideas, create collaborative opportunities and advance the university in three key areas – student success, discovery and outreach, and engagement. Proposals are due in February and must promote collaboration across units, campuses and institutes and have clear, measurable outcomes and demonstrable, sustainable impacts. While it is still early, we have had more than 250 individuals from across the system inquire about opportunities for collaborative grants.
We also must ensure work is done in the most efficient and effective manner between the UT System and its campuses and institutes. With full support of the board, in November of 2018 we launched the Task Force for Effective Administration and Management, also known as TEAM. Individuals from across the UT System participated in an effort to evaluate five key areas – capital projects, communications and marketing, human resources, information technology, and procurement and contracting.
More than 50 people from all campuses continue to be involved with this initiative. The outcomes are greater collaborative leadership among System and institution leaders and greater standardization of process and services. We also anticipate seeing cost savings in key operational areas. In procurement and contracting, for example, our consultant anticipates savings of 3 to 5 percent. The Board received updates on the project at the June and November meetings.
Transparency is critical to an open, collaborative culture, and so on my third day on the job last year, we announced an initiative we call Transparent UT. The University of Tennessee System is committed to providing greater and easier access to information for UT’s faculty, staff, students and the communities it serves. The Transparent UT website represents some of the most frequently requested information by UT constituencies, and information is continually added as needed. In fact, following this hearing we will launch a page dedicated to the Sunset Audit. In addition, we have created an online portal on the site for individuals to submit ideas for additional information.
As part of the initiative, we also created the Transparency Advisory Group, which is made up of a cross section of our constituents, including faculty and staff from across the System as well as a member of the media and the former Chairman of the House Education Committee, Harry Brooks. This group advises us on information they believe should be included on the Transparent UT website.
This fall, we launched a “data dashboard” that builds on our commitment to providing greater and easier access to information. The dashboard includes current and historical information about the University including students, degree programs, faculty, finances and research. This dashboard will contain key metrics. We strongly believe you cannot manage what you don’t measure, and this dashboard is one way we can share those measures.
Student Safety and Campus Security
In regards to student safety and campus security, our job as educators is to create and sustain communities where learning can happen. While campus safety has always been our highest priority, the audit has further challenged us to be better.
The question of safety in educational settings is an issue facing us all – from K-12 to higher education. We are not immune from what is happening across the nation, but at the University of Tennessee we are relentlessly committed to a comprehensive approach to campus health and safety. We agree that this is a race that has no finish line, and we will continue to work diligently.
The university has highly-trained and dedicated police officers at each campus. Our campus police departments are individually accredited by the Tennessee Association of Chiefs of Police and are active with the organization. UT Knoxville Chief of Police Troy Lane is the vice president of the board of directors for the organization, and UT Martin Chief Scott Robbins serves as the District 11 director.
In addition, campus police officers are required to participate in a minimum of 40 hours of state-mandated trainings each year, including trainings with the FBI and TBI, and our campus police chiefs meet together twice a year for cross-collaborative training as part of our commitment to emergency management.
On behalf of the university, I want to express my appreciation to the legislature for allocating $10 million last year for safety and security improvements on all UT campuses. THEC has requested another $2 million further demonstrating the critical statewide need in this area. Your support is appreciated and also critical in the future, not just for UT campuses but for all our public higher education institutions.
In the area of Title IX, we have made great strides.
In 2015, UT Knoxville received a U.S. Department of Justice grant for three years to build a comprehensive approach to the issues of sexual assault, relationship violence, stalking and retaliation. In addition to implementing large scale prevention programs and streamlining processes, all work was directly evaluated by the Department of Justice for three years. As a result, the Office on Violence Against Women within the Department of Justice has honored UT Knoxville’s work by using our staff as trainers for new grantees and speakers at their national symposium. We have used this experience and expertise to inform our system Title IX approach.
In September 2016, then-UT President Joe DiPietro appointed an independent commission to review and address Title IX compliance across the UT System.
In June 2017, information gathered by the commission as well as observations and recommendations were publicly released and shared broadly.
As noted in the audit, over the past two years the UT System has worked diligently to build a system-wide Title IX compliance structure. We adopted a Title IX model based on recommendations by the Title IX Commission, and we have worked to build a system that supports the campuses to meet our compliance requirements with a specific emphasis on prevention.
In 2018 and 2019 the UT System hosted statewide Title IX Summits with nationally-recognized researchers and scholars. As part of our commitment to ensure access to education, we have opened these trainings at no cost to all Title IX coordinators for public and private four-year schools and two-year community colleges with dedicated tracks for law enforcement, campus investigators, Title IX Coordinators and prevention.
The Title IX Office aligns communication across the system through annual training in Title IX for the Board of Trustees and UT System Administration. Both groups have achieved 100 percent completion for that training.
The training aims to assist employees across the system, in accurately reporting and responding to concerns of sexual misconduct (including sexual harassment), relationship violence, stalking, and retaliation. The training ensures that all employees have a foundational knowledge of reporting options, resources, prevention efforts and active bystander expectations. The completion rate demonstrates UT System Administration’s and Board of Trustees’ commitment to this important issue.
To ensure ongoing coordination, we host monthly Title IX coordinator meetings across the system. To date, the role of our system Title IX coordinator has been to date to serve as a resource, create training opportunities, and build infrastructure to support compliance.
Due to this audit process, we recognized areas for continuous improvement. In response, we developed a system for tracking data across campuses. Beginning in September, we asked our campuses to capture their data in quarterly reports and submit them to the Title IX coordinator. Over the course of the last academic year, we are working to streamline our individual campus Title IX policies. The streamlined policy will position us to better coordinate compliance across the campuses and create additional opportunities for shared resources and prevention messaging.
In addition to each campus having a Title IX coordinator, each campus also has their own Clery coordinator. These separate offices play unique roles in ensuring system-wide compliance with related, but distinct, legal requirements arising in the higher education landscape. At this time, there is no system function oversight for Clery, however, campuses have demonstrated a need for system level support in Clery compliance, and we are committed to meeting that need.
Prior to receiving the Sunset Audit, UT officials made the decision to internally audit Clery compliance. Clery was on the University’s internal audit plan for this year. In January of 2019, our new board members signed off on the audit plan which included Clery audits at two campuses. Since the Sunset Audit, we have expanded our internal audit to incorporate all campuses. That audit is already underway and will be completed in the first quarter of 2020. Once the audit is complete, we will bring it to the Audit and Compliance Committee of the Board of Trustees for review and discussion of next steps.
Another area highlighted in the comptroller’s report is mental health. Student mental health and well-being is a national crisis and one of the top student success concerns expressed among faculty and administrators across the System. We want the University of Tennessee to be a national leader in solving this epidemic.
UT campus leaders are committed to providing quality mental health resources for students, and are actively working to ensure students can thrive during their time at UT and beyond graduation.
Each campus is employing unique and innovative measures to comply with 2019 suicide prevention legislation; reduce the stigma around mental health concerns; identify and support students in distress; and connect students with resources.
Each campus has behavioral intervention teams to address distressed and at-risk students, and UT Knoxville was one of the 15 founding members of the Higher Education Case Management Association.
In November, we provided the board with an overview of services at each campus and held the first system-wide mental health summit with more than 90 attendees from across the System as well as representatives from the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, Tennessee Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and other national experts to address the crisis head on. In addition, we are creating a system-wide working group on student mental health services. Funding will be critical for this concern statewide.
As I stated earlier, we have an extremely engaged Board of Trustees with members who are fully committed to their fiduciary roles. The Board and I share a commitment to good data as you can’t manage what you can’t measure. I remain committed to making the board aware of existing, emerging, and future initiatives, just as I believe the board is committed to fulfilling their duties and asking those difficult questions to help ensure that we are continuously improving and moving the University of Tennessee forward in manner that serves the entire state of Tennessee.
It is our sincere hope that our actions to utilize the comptroller’s report and policy considerations will help us address these very important issues.
Mister Chairman, thank you for allowing me to speak on this matter, and I’ll be glad to answer any questions you may have.