KNOXVILLE – Calling the implications of a shutdown of the University of Tennessee “virtually catastrophic,” UT President John Shumaker met Friday with students, faculty, staff and the public to answer questions and share the latest information about budget uncertainties in the state legislature.
“It’s amazing to me that we find ourselves in this position.”
Shumaker said he was surprised to be holding such a forum, this soon in his tenure as president.
“In my many years of higher education, I’ve never anticipated, even in my wildest nightmares, the possibility of shutting down a university, except for a day or two for snow,” Shumaker said. “But we are indeed facing a blizzard, aren’t we?”
Joining Shumaker on the stage of the University Center Auditorium were Provost Loren Crabtree, Faculty Senate President Katherine Greenberg, Student Government Association President Elizabeth Clement, Vice President for Operations Phillip Scheurer and Vice President for Business and Finance Sylvia Davis.
Shumaker said UT’s decisions for a possible shutdown have not been unilateral, and the university has taken no position on any revenue plan.
“There is no attempt here to make the students and the faculty leverage points for a university public policy in Nashville,” Shumaker said. “Our job has simply been to describe for our colleagues there the tremendous impact that this negative budget situation is having on the university.”
Crabtree said if a budget is passed before Monday July 1, classes would resume for the second session of summer school on Friday July 5. If needed, Crabtree said, the start of classes could be put off until Monday July 8.
During the question-and-answer session, a UT student asked Shumaker how much he thought tuition would increase under a worst-case scenario.
“The worst-case scenario, I think, is shutting down,” Shumaker said. “If the DOGS budget were to pass, we wouldn’t be able to close the revenue gap entirely with tuition and fee increases unless we went as high as 25 or 30 percent.”
Shumaker said he didn’t think it likely that tuition and fees would increase that much, and that any remaining revenue gaps would be closed by laying off around 300 workers and abolishing over 400 unfilled positions around the state.