The current controversy on high pay for UT administrators who return to teach as faculty could not come at a worse time for the university, as it suggests waste through inflated salaries that are not genuinely earned or deserved.
To retire as chancellor, president or provost and then earn 75 percent of your salary with no limit as to how long it lasts and no connection to duties, workload or ability seems fundamentally misplaced. It is not fiscally conservative. It is wasteful. UT is often asking for more money and telling the Legislature not to micromanage. This weakens their argument as the board of trustees allowed this to happen.
This was actually reported in this column some three months ago after Jimmy Cheek announced his retirement as chancellor, but now the daily media have discovered it.
UT President Joe DiPietro obviously saw the public relations disaster looming when he offered to limit his own benefit to four years instead of a lifetime. He is taking a bullet for the other six people who are enjoying this benefit. Will the others step forward and announce an end to this windfall? Good question to be asked.
The excuse that this is what other comparable universities are paying does not apply for retreat salaries once the administrator returns to his prior job. How did the trustees allow this to happen? If they had read their materials they would have known it, as they approved the contracts allowing this. The trustees were not doing their job of examining expenses in this case.
Unless this is changed soon, the Legislature may intervene, and certainly some candidates for governor may make it an issue. It is a legitimate issue for gubernatorial candidates as the governor is a voting member of the UT board who often chairs it. A candidate could pledge to not let it happen on his/her watch. UT would not benefit if this became a statewide issue and should act to modify it ASAP.
■ State Rep. Bill Dunn, who often has been one of the most conservative lawmakers, is not only backing the Haslam gas tax bill but is a sponsor. He says it helps build roads in North Knox County such as Emory Road. He points out he has opposed other tax hikes consistently in the past.
■ Circuit Court Judge Deborah Stevens turns 63 on March 17.
■ Former Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey was in Knoxville two days last week promoting parental control over student placement. Ramsey retired two months ago from the second-highest office in the state at the height of his popularity. He will continue to push issues that are conservative and close to his beliefs.