LETTER: UT Knoxville chancellor removed, will take on faculty role

Regional

KNOXVILLE, TN (WATE) – University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s chancellor will take on a new role as a faculty member, according to a statement from the university president.
 

Davenport will become a member of the faculty in the College of Communication and Information, according to UT President Dr. Joe DiPietro, citing a need for a change in leadership.

“It is my responsibility as UT president to ensure the success of every campus, beginning with the leadership of every campus. A great deal is at stake in these hires, particularly given the importance of the flagship campus both to fulfilling the UT system mission and to that mission’s impact on the lives of all Tennesseans. Upon realizing that UT Knoxville needed a change from Dr. Davenport’s leadership, I decided to take action to address the leadership need,” DiPietro said. 

A copy of Davenport’s termination letter identified seven problems and concerns with Davenport’s performance, including an unsatisfactory relationship with the president and his team, an unwillingness to meet with a professional coach, a failure to acclimate herself to the UT system, poor communication skills, lack of organization, failure to accept responsibility, and a failure to communicate a defined strategic vision to campus.

“As I indicated to you last Tuesday, I do not think you can be successful as the leader of our flagship campus and have decided that it is best to move forward with a change in leadership rather than putting you on a formal performance improvement plan,” said DiPietro in the letter.

Students have been gathering on campus in support of Davenport. 

The students say they wanted to show a sign of support for Davenport. Students ay they are heartbroken over this news and that Davenport and students deserve better. 

“She has done the right thing ever since she walked on this campus and she cares more about this region, not just the university but East Tennessee. She’s one of us,” said senior Turner Matthews.

Davenport was confirmed as the university’s chancellor in December 2016, replacing Jimmy Cheek. She was the university’s first female chancellor and also the highest paid one in university history.

She previously served as interim president at the University of Cincinnati and also served as the University of Cincinnati’s Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost.

Davenport started the job in February 2017, and one of her top priorities was hiring a new athletics director, who ended up being John Currie. She also had a hand in re-emphasizing the Lady Vols name.

She announced in October 2017 the university would not outsource facilities management services, an issue that was causing upset across the state.

Davenport faced several controversies during her time as chancellor, including the firing of Butch Jones as football coach and the tumultuous search for a replacement that led to the firing of Currie as athletics director, the hiring of Phillip Fulmer in that same position, and the eventual naming of Jeremy Pruitt as head coach.

She also faced controversy when a white nationalist group made public its intentions to speak on campus. The decision was made that the group’s First Amendment rights could not be violated, but opposition and unity gatherings were planned.

DiPietro says an interim chancellor will be named soon. So far there is no word on the search for a permanent replacement.

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