KNOXVILLE–New University of Tennessee President John W. Shumaker’s first campus meeting was with the people who count most — the students.
Monday was Shumaker’s first full day on campus, and he spent most of it meeting with students, faculty, alumni and employees.
UT’s 21st chief executive was greeted by an enthusiastic group of students at “the Rock” on
Dr. John Shumaker talks with Student Government Association President Elizabeth Clement at “The Rock”
Volunteer Boulevard. With “Rocky Top” playing in the background, Shumaker admired the students’ artistic welcome painted on the rock, UT’s unofficial message board.
“It’s good to be with the people who really count,” Shumaker told the students. “You are the reason I came to Tennessee.
“It is very important for people to recognize that those students are the reason the university exists. We often let that fact get lost in the debate and brouhaha about budget and policy and politics.”
Joking with Student Government Association President Elizabeth Clement and other SGA leaders, he said, “Everything is going to be fine. The parking is fine. The food is good. The air conditioning will always work, and all the professors are good.”
When he arrived at Andy Holt Tower, UT’s administration building, Shumaker was greeted by Dianne Duncan, president of the UT National Alumni Association, and by staff members who work in the tower.
His first campus luncheon was with Lady Vol basketball coach Pat Summitt and Joan Cronan, women’s athletic director, to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Title IX, which provides equal opportunities for women in athletics and other areas.
Knox County Commission joined the celebration by presenting Shumaker a resolution welcoming him to Tennessee and congratulating him on assuming the presidency. The commission also presented a resolution to Emerson “Eli” Fly for his leadership as acting president over the past year.
At an afternoon meeting with faculty and members of the Presidential Advisory Council, Shumaker pledged an open administration that supports the academic, research and service missions of the university. That may mean changes in the administrative structure and will include the sharing of more information with faculty, he said.
“We’ve got to support teaching and research in a more streamlined way,” he said. “In some cases, we need to stay out of your (the faculty’s) way.”
Shumaker said that next to serving students, improving faculty salaries is his highest priority. He said UT must move more in line with its peer institutions, particularly at the full professor rank, to remain competitive and to stop the flow of good faculty to other universities.
He encouraged the faculty to be open and candid.
“There can’t be too much information,” he said. “If there are hot spots out there, let me know about them.”