Monday marks first day for UT interim chancellor

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University of Tennessee interim chancellor Wayne Davis spoke on the school’s campus Monday, talking about how excited he is for the opportunity to help lead the university.

Davis is replacing former chancellor Beverly Davenport, who was relieved of her duties by UT President Joe DiPietro on Thursday.

“I love this campus,” Davis said. “I’ve interacted with faculty and administration and I love that interaction. I love a good challenge as well, and the ability to have challenges and move forward in this great university is what it’s all about.”

Davis also sent out an email Monday morning, saying, “A change in leadership is never easy. I want you to know how committed I am to supporting our students, faculty, and staff and to providing stability to our university through this transition.”

Davis has spent more than four decades working at the university, most recently serving as the dean of the Tickle College of Engineering. He said he is willing to serve as the interim chancellor for six months to a year.

President Joe DiPietro answered some of the big questions many in Knoxville have had since the firing of Dr. Davenport last week.

He says it was one he made with much thought and he believes the 14 months Dr. Davenport served here was enough time to work on fixing issues after her performance review.

President DiPietro says annual evaluations done on faculty and staff are not open records. 

“It’s not surprising that you didn’t find any evaluated materials within those documents. This was not personal,” he said.

He adds there were problems with transparency and trust issues.

“I also felt that because I was the person who selected her and recommended her, I was very excited to have a woman in this role, that it was important for me not to allow somebody else to have to deal with the issues that I thought were so difficult and challenging that they were unlikely to be resolved,” said President DiPietro.

WATE 6 On Your Side asked about his termination letter to Dr. Davenport, which some felt the seven outlined problems and the tone were overly critical.

“The letter needs to stand on its own merit as a result of various issues,” said President DiPietro.

Since last week many have wanted to know the rationale of moving Dr. Davenport to the School of Communications.

“The communications issues I had with her were transactional business communication. She has a strong track record as a faculty member in her prior years. I expected she will pick up where she left off,” added President DiPietro.

Since her firing staff at the university have wanted to know their future, concerned again about the possibility of outsourcing.

“There is no inclination at all on my part. I mean, the outsourcing issues is dead. The reality is we looked at that, we evaluated that, from the very beginning I said it would be the chancellor’s decision and it stood. So, I don’t think thy have anything to worry about,” said President DiPietro.

Davenport faced several controversies during her time as chancellor, including the firing of Butch Jones as football coach and the tumultuous search for a replacement that led to the firing of Currie as athletics director, the hiring of Phillip Fulmer in that same position, and the eventual naming of Jeremy Pruitt as head coach.

She also faced controversy when a white nationalist group made public its intentions to speak on campus. The decision was made that the group’s First Amendment rights could not be violated, but opposition and unity gatherings were planned.

President DiPietro will be meeting with the new board of trustees, coming on July 1, to find a new chancellor. From there they’ll come up with a job description, solidify a plan, and then begin their search.

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