Important Beginning of the Academic Year Message for Faculty and Staff from Todd Diacon

Todd Diacon headshot

Welcome back from what I hope was a restful, productive, and happy summer. Before the rush of the semester’s activities begins, I write to present the Class of 2012, our new academic policies, and to remind you of existing programs and offerings.

Members of the Class of 2012 bring to campus a 3.76 high school grade point average, and a 26.6 average ACT score (1194 SAT). Both scores are the highest ever for an entering class, and compare to 3.68 and 25.9

(1154 SAT) averages for the Class of 2011. To gauge just how much our students have changed, compare the above numbers to those of students who entered UT in 2004: 3.45 and 24.7 (1105 SAT).

Roughly 13% of the students are from out of state. In addition, 12% of this class received a Pledge or Promise Scholarship, awarded on the basis of extreme financial need (Pledge), or because the student graduated from a Tennessee high school that historically has not sent students to UTK (Promise). Our minority enrollment is 13%, down from 14% last year.

These new students, and all returning students, will encounter new academic policies. Foremost on their minds, perhaps, is the addition of minuses (A- 3.7, B- 2.7, C- 1.7, D- .7) to final course grade options.

We have no mandatory grading system/scale at Tennessee, but certainly expect most faculty will employ these additional grades as a way to add finer distinctions to student performance in our courses. Also, please note that your grades and grading scale must be included in course syllabi.

Our course drop policies also have changed. The last day to drop a course with a W is now the 63rd calendar day of the semester (October 21, 2008). The last day to drop a course with a WP or WF is November 11, 2008. The WF will no longer be calculated as an F for establishing the semester grade point average, but students’ transcripts will carry the WF (or WP) notation.

Nearly every in-state student of the Class of 2012 holds a Tennessee Education Lottery Scholarship. New this year are regulations extending the probationary period for maintaining the scholarship. Starting this semester, at the 48 credit hour mark students must have a 2.75 GPA to keep the scholarship until the next benchmark of 72 hours, at which time they must have a cumulative 3.0 GPA to maintain lottery scholarship funding. However, a probationary period at 72+ hours allows students to retain their scholarship with a 2.75-2.99 cumulative GPA if they carry a 3.0 semester GPA.

Beginning this fall, faculty will be able to view student I.D. photos in the Blackboard course cites. You can do so by clicking the Student Roster link in the Control Panel. Only persons with instructor status in a Blackboard course will have access to the photos and roster information. This change is the result of requests made during faculty lunches with the Provost last year, and I appreciate professors’ desire to learn more quickly to the names of students enrolled in their courses.

Whenever students have a question that you are unable to answer, or when are they struggling in your course and need assistance, please direct them to the Student Success Center

For the protocol for handling distressed students, please visit To report troubling student behavior you may also call 974-HELP. Finally, the Teaching Guide, which contains this and additional useful information, can be consulted at

Thank you for all of your efforts, and here is to a great semester.