UTK'S CHANGING MISSION
Over the past thirty years, both the role of The University of Tennessee, Knoxville and societal demands for its services have undergone significant change. In the years immediately following World War II, the University's efforts were directed primarily toward undergraduate instruction. Except for longstanding programs of the Agricultural Experiment Station, research was extremely limited, with modest activity only beginning to develop in science and engineering areas as a result of cooperative efforts with nearby Atomic Energy Commission installations in Oak Ridge. Advanced graduate study was minimal, with only 92 Ph.D degrees awarded by the University in Knoxville prior to 1953.
Although graduate studies and research grew in importance on the Knoxville campus in the 1950's and 60's, undergraduate instruction remained a major focus. The commitment of the University's leaders to serve the educational needs of the people of Tennessee and the very limited opportunities for publicly-aided higher education elsewhere in the state led the University to maintain a policy of open admission for Tennessee high school graduates, to expand its faculty and facilities to serve the burgeoning enrollments of the post-World War II "baby boom," and to extend its program offerings into a variety of graduate and professional areas not previously available at public colleges and universities in Tennessee. The University was the comprehensive higher education institution for any graduate of a Tennessee high school.
By the late 1970's, the University's external environment had changed drastically. The state of Tennessee had placed in operation ten comprehensive community colleges, four technical institutes, and 26 area vocational schools offering some postsecondary instruction. The state teachers colleges had become regional universities with a wide range of offerings at the bachelor's and master's levels; some offered doctoral programs as well. The University of Tennessee system had also added two regional University campuses, one at Martin (formerly the UT Junior College) and one at Chattanooga (formerly the private University of Chattanooga). These new and expanded institutions have vastly increased Tennesseans' access to postsecondary educational opportunities, thereby bringing into serious question the need for UTK to continue its former open admission policies.
The University's financial status further underscores the need for reassessment of its role and mission. Although Chancellor Reese and his staff have demonstrated astute stewardship of limited funds in a time of genuine austerity, current funding for UTK is clearly insufficient to support even its reduced current enrollments and narrowed range or programs at an adequate level. Evidence of this deficiency is pervasive: faculty salaries are the lowest among comparable institutions in the South; library facilities and collections are becoming less adequate for research and graduate studies each year; instructional laboratories in many areas are overcrowded, dependent upon obsolescent equipment, and lacking necessary supplies; some departments must depend upon gift funds and contract overhead recoveries to meet basic operating needs; many students cannot obtain required courses because too few sections are offered; class sizes in some disciplines are too large for effective instruction; and a lack of research equipment and graduate assistants, together with heavy teaching loads, place faculty at a competitive disadvantage in seeking grant and contract funds. Only an active and highly successful program of fund-raising from alumni and other private donors including faculty and staff, overhead recoveries from contract research, and increased Student fees, has prevented even more serious erosion of UTK's educational quality. Moreover, prospects for the increases needed to fund its activities at adequate levels depend both on major initiatives at the state level and UTK's success at demonstrating that it merits a significant increase in state funding that would benefit the entire State.
Developments over the last two years suggest that one way for the University to improve its funding position is to reduce its enrollments, particularly at the lower-division level where greatest overcrowding occurs, and some programmatic activities as well, working with state officials at the same time to maintain continued reasonable funding growth. The precedent for such action was established two years ago when a voluntary enrollment reduction based on higher admission/retention standards, without loss of funding, was negotiated with the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. This has resulted in a funding level per full-time equivalent student, even after impoundments, eleven percent higher than would have otherwise been received by UTK. But this reduction in programs and overall enrollments is a limited measure and not a long-range solution for building a campus of excellence in Tennessee higher education. Although the Task Force supports additional enrollment reduction at the lower division that is carefully planned in relation to institutional resources, this action should be taken in ways that protect the program balance at the State's comprehensive university.
More recently, the Governor has announced an unprecedented four-year program for funding and quality improvements in Tennessee higher education, based on a more sharply focused mission at each of the State's higher education institutions. To take advantage of these significant opportunities for quality improvements, UTK must adopt a more sharply defined mission, must articulate this mission clearly to both internal and external constituencies, must negotiate funding arrangements that will allow program quality enhancement with additional enrollment reductions at the lower division, must continue the recent emphasis on developing a planning/budgeting mechanism for allocation of resources for maximum quality improvements, and must assure that its administrative structure fully supports these actions. A coordinated and mutually supportive faculty/administrative effort is essential if these actions are to take place in a timely manner and the present, unique opportunities not be lost.
UTK's challenge is to demonstrate persuasively that the State of Tennessee requires one comprehensive campus of excellence to complement centers of excellence developed elsewhere and to stop the brain drain of the state's top high school graduates to distinguished public universities outside Tennessee. It is in the interest of the entire State to have a university that can do for Tennessee what certain distinguished universities in neighboring states have done for their home states. No longer can UTK base its distinctiveness primarily on its size and variety of programs. UTK's unique role in Tennessee public higher education must now rest primarily on the excellence of its faculty, programs, and students.
But just as old values arid identities are not easily relinquished, so new ones are not institutionalized without great difficulty. Creative conflict is inevitable now, because on the one hand, high aspirations have kindled rising expectations; on the other, financial deficiencies resulting from inadequate State support and three consecutive years of impoundments have kindled fears that UTK is becoming not only smaller but worse. In this context, maintaining morale of faculty, students, and staff becomes a critical concern.
Morale at UTK suffers both from financial pressures and from perceived administrative shortcomings, e.g., lack of accessibility, poor communication, and misplaced priorities. Many people on campus have not been able to understand how an Arena could be financed when pressing academic needs have been postponed and salary levels have comparatively declined. Many believe there has been an insufficient priority given to raising the State financial support required to improve UTK's academic programs. In this context, many perceive an imbalance favoring athletics over academics. And because the policy direction for campus athletics programs is provided jointly by the campus and the UT system-wide administrations, the UT leadership is perceived as primarily responsible for this imbalance. It is in the interest of everyone that these concerns be recognized as broadly representative at UTK, rather than interpreted as the concerns of a few. Corrective measures are needed. An institution cannot be strong if its members are unable to work effectively together for common goals that are broadly shared.
The Task Force recognizes that UTK is committed to a major intercollegiate sports program. While acknowledging that it is an over- simplification to describe priorities as related to a proper balance between academics and athletics as if these are the two central priorities of the institution, the Task Force believes that perceptions of imbalance can best be corrected by strong measures to enhance the University's academic orientation, and offers recommendations aimed at accomplishing this objective.
Recommendation One: As a contribution towards articulating a new identity, the Task Force offers a new Statement of Mission for the campus. The current Role and Scope Statement for this campus, though suited to a university going through a period of rapid quantitative growth, is now inappropriate. The need for a more sharply focused statement of mission for UTK was a constant refrain in the interviews. The Task Force proposes specifically that the following statement be reviewed by faculty, administrative, and student committees and then submitted to the Faculty Senate, Administration, arid Board of Trustees for Approval:
Proposed Statement of UTK MissionAs the State University and Land-grant institution, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville has a unique mission. UTK is the State's campus of excellence in graduate and professional studies, research and creative activity, and public service; this is what defines UTK's distinctive identity and enriches its selective undergraduate programs. Because UTK is a comprehensive university, students have an opportunity to select a course of study that prepares them for leadership in tomorrow's world.
UTK fulfills its mission by:1. Having a preeminent faculty skilled in teaching, research, service, and creative activity;
2. Enforcing a pro-active affirmative action policy, both in hiring faculty and staff and in enrollment planning, with priority on increasing the numbers of black faculty, students, and staff throughout the institution, and on increasing the numbers of women in faculty and administrative positions;
3. Aggressively recruiting and enrolling students whose qualifications indicate that they can meet the required performance standards, with priority on increasing the percentage of highly qualified students in all educational programs;
4. Assuring that students in all programs are presented with models of academic excellence and challenged by standards of excellence, by offering: (a) professional and graduate studies in areas consistent with the needs of the State, Nation, and World; (b) a liberal studies program for all students that frees them for creative thought, respect for diversity, discerning moral judgments, and other aspects of personal development; and (c) continuing education opportunities for both traditional and non-traditional students;
5. Establishing rigorous performance standards in all areas and rewarding excellence in performance by individuals and units based on regular assessment of program outcomes, including: (a) having a teaching/ learning style in graduate, professional, and undergraduate programs that promotes personal interactions between students and faculty in ways that maximize student learning; (b) providing advising and support services designed to enhance student learning and likelihood of program completion; (c) conducting periodic reviews of all programs, faculty, staff, and administrators; and (d) providing support and incentives for research and creative activities that serve the public interest;
6. Complementing the role of other higher education institutions in Tennessee by: (a) limiting, through a selective admission process, the number of students enrolled at the lower division; (b) facilitating and encouraging the transfer of academically superior students who have completed a rigorous, two-year program at a community or junior college; and (c) facilitating the transfer of qualified students who desire upper division work in an area offered at UTK but which is not available at the student's current institution;
7. Providing a range of extra-curricular opportunities, student organizations, arid cultural activities that enriches campus life and promotes personal development;
8. Interacting with the community in a variety of activities that enhances cultural, economic, arid intellectual life;
9. Providing library resources, computer facilities, and other support services required by instructional, research, and public service activities; and
10. Assuring that faculty and students have a role in institutional governance.