University of Tennessee President John W. Shumaker visited the state’s major cities Tuesday, stepping up the call for an immediate end to the budget impasse in Nashville.
He also went to Birmingham for the announcement of Mike Slive as the new commissioner of the Southeastern Conference. Slive is head of Conference USA, which has as a member the University of Louisville, where Shumaker was formerly president.
In welcoming Shumaker to the conference, John White, chancellor of the University of Arkansas and SEC president, said the new UT president had a role in Tuesday’s appointment.
“When John Shumaker came from Louisville to the SEC, Slive was the player to be named later,” White said.
As he conducted his series of meetings across Tennessee, Shumaker said he must emphasize the damage that is being done to UT.
“With every passing hour, the partial shutdown of the university is creating more problems and uncertainty for students and our faculty and staff,” he said. “It is my responsibility to communicate to the people of the state and the legislature the grave consequences that this is having on the university.
“If we are unable to end this quickly and start the second term of summer school, the result would be catastrophic.”
The UT president also visited with editorial boards of newspapers in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Memphis and Nashville, and ended the day with a trip to Capitol Hill in Nashville. He traveled in a private aircraft and not at state expense.
While in Birmingham for the Slive announcement, Shumaker said he will begin to explore with the conference office what NCAA arrangements, if any, might be available for UT athletes who are unable to complete their academic work because of the shutdown.
“While my main focus is on ending the shutdown and protecting the academic work of all students, it is appropriate to begin to ask the questions about what relief might be available for student-athletes. They are students first and athletes second,” Shumaker said.
Shumaker said Slive is an excellent choice to succeed Roy Kramer as SEC commissioner.
“Mike and I have been friends for at least five years, and he is a very capable guy. We are fortunate to have him join us as commissioner,” Shumaker said.
“I look forward to welcoming him to Knoxville in the near future.”