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Senate President's Response to Chancellor Crabtree's Resignation

UT Knoxville Faculty,

Most of you know by now that following a meeting with President John Petersen on Thursday morning, Chancellor Loren Crabtree resigned effective immediately. This precipitous ousting* of Chancellor Crabtree occurred without prior consultation or notification of the Faculty Senate. It is difficult to imagine how the circumstances that led to this event will not complicate the search for Chancellor Crabtree’s successor.

Chancellor Crabtree’s departure is a most regrettable outcome of the disagreements between the President’s administration and UT Knoxville administrators on the organizational and operational boundaries between the UT System and the Knoxville campus. Chancellor Crabtree was held in high regard by the faculty, staff, and administrators who worked with him over the last seven years. He is leaving our campus having remarkably changed this institution. His initiatives and actions have dramatically altered and improved the relationship between the UTK administration and the faculty. He had a major role in introducing “shared governance” as an operative value and practice at UTK. We all owe him a great debt of gratitude for his tireless efforts to transform this institution and serve as a stabilizing source of support for academic excellence throughout a turbulent period in the history of UT.

On Friday morning January 4, I emailed President Petersen requesting that he meet with the Faculty Senate Executive Committee before appointing an interim Chancellor. That email is included below. A meeting was arranged for that afternoon. Ten members of the UTK Faculty Senate Executive Committee met with President Petersen for two and a half hours - during which time we had an honest and frank discussion about campus/system governance, the need for budgetary transparency, construction management on campus, and shared governance, among other matters. We also talked about the critical importance of selecting an Interim Chancellor with the academic integrity and administrative experience to carry the campus forward through this period of transition. We forwarded names of several people who would serve the campus well in this capacity. He said that an interim Chancellor would be named shortly. Further, he assured us that the interim Chancellor would not come from the UT System administration. The President said his intention with this interim appointment is to create as little disruption to the campus as possible. We also talked about the process and criteria for selecting the next UTK Chancellor. The President agreed to faculty involvement in the search for and selection on the next UTK Chancellor. I subsequently learned that the President has scheduled a meeting with the UT Knoxville Deans on Monday.

In the interest of mending the relationship with the UT System and giving the full Faculty Senate an opportunity hear from and question President Petersen, I invited him to address the Faculty Senate at the January 28 meeting. He agreed to check his schedule to determine his availability for that date and time. Should he be unavailable, I will press to schedule him to address the Senate ASAP.

Unfortunately, on this campus we are no strangers to problems of leadership. During prior periods of administrative turbulence, the faculty continued to do the work of the university - conducting innovative research/scholarship/creative activities, upholding a commitment to excellence in teaching and performing meaningful service. I am confident we will do the same during this period of transition.  

I received a note from Chancellor Crabtree early yesterday morning. Apparently, his childhood habit of rising early on the farm to do chores has not left him. In the note he said, “Shared governance is a fragile creature, and we all have to work on it in order to ensure its survival.” I concur that it is essential for the Senate to continue to press for faculty involvement and consideration of our input by administrators at all levels.

I will update you as more information becomes available. I welcome your comments and suggestions.

All the best,


* The choice of this term is intentional and based on the discussion in the meeting described here.


January 4, 2008

President Peterson,
Like many UTK faculty, I was saddened to learn yesterday afternoon of Chancellor Crabtree’s resignation. This is an extremely unfortunate outcome to the dispute over the governance of UT Knoxville.
My purpose in writing is to ask that you meet with the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate prior to the appointment of an interim Chancellor. As you likely know, the UT Faculty Handbook specifies a role for the senate in the selection of a chancellor in section 1.6. It states…
“The faculty role in campus-wide governance is through the senate, the representative body specifically charged by the board (a) to formulate the university’s educational standards and degree requirements, including approval of academic programs and their curricula; and (b) to consider, advise, and recommend to the administration policies about a wide range of issues affecting the general welfare of the faculty. Among these issues are…criteria for the selection of the chancellor or vice president, and other campus administrative officers…”

Despite the fact that you will be appointing an interim Chancellor, healing of the divisive relationship between the faculty and the system administration would be served by seeking input from the Faculty Senate, specifically the Executive Committee prior to the appointment of an interim Chancellor.
The Executive Committee is scheduled to meet on January 14 at 3:30. Given the exigency of the current situation, I am willing to call a meeting of the Executive Committee to accommodate your schedule.
I look forward to your timely reply to this request.



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