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Boyd Sets Goals, Agendas For Tenure As UT System President

Brandon Hollingsworth, WUOT News

The word “interim” in University of Tennessee system president Randy Boyd’s title might imply to some a caretaker role, someone to keep the ship running while a new captain is found. But Boyd feels differently. He has released a list of six priority areas he wants to work on during his projected two-year tenure, and he reiterated those points Thursday in Knoxville as he continues a tour of the system’s major campuses.

“When you look at all the assets and resources we have across the state,” Boyd said at a press event, “We’re more powerful, we have a stronger impact, when we work together.”

The six priority areas are: find a new UT Knoxville chancellor and system president; increase the school’s talent development; strengthen ties to Oak Ridge National Lab; build community engagement; clarify the relationship between the system level and individual campuses; and build the university’s public brand.

Boyd succeeded retiring president Joe DiPietro on November 22. Boyd’s appointment in September was not universally praised; his confirmation came over the objections of faculty members concerned about his lack of higher education leadership experience. Boyd’s online UT biography points out he chaired the Tennessee Higher Education Commission, and was an architect of Tennessee Promise and other initiatives designed to boost college enrollment and graduation rates.

UT Chattanooga Chancellor Steve Angle told reporters Wednesday he thinks Boyd’s political experience will be an asset for a university that has at times tussled with state lawmakers displeased about perceived partisan bias on campus.

“I do hope that’s an asset,” Boyd said today. “I have relationships and friendships with so many people in Legislature [and] that can build bridges to understanding between the people of Tennessee and the university.”

On Wednesday, Boyd announced the formation of a search panel to find the Knoxville campus’ next chancellor. That person will succeed Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis, who took office this summer. Boyd says UT Martin chancellor Keith Carver is the ideal leader for the search committee.

“He has deep roots here in Knoxville…He also is a chancellor himself, so he understands that role.” Boyd said.

Boyd also addressed recent hate speech scrawled on the university’s “Rock” and subsequent requests to reinstate the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. It will be impossible to prevent every activity born of hate or bigotry, Boyd said, but the university should create a culture of respect at the campus and system level.

In remarks to the university’s board of trustees two months ago, Boyd said, “I believe that we need to continue to make sure we have a warm and welcoming culture at the University of Tennessee for people of all faiths, races, genders, nationalities and faiths.”

Boyd said he will spend time during his tenure learning about the university’s research projects, academic activity and other functions. His tour of UT System campuses began Monday in Martin, continued Tuesday in Chattanooga, and will conclude Friday with a visit to the UT Health Science Center in Memphis.