Bredesen backs university president but skeptical on enrollment proposals
NASHVILLE (AP) — Gov. Phil Bredesen says he backs the recent resignation of University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s chancellor but is skeptical of plans to expand student enrollment.
In an interview with the Knoxville News Sentinel, Bredesen called the departure of Loren Crabtree as chancellor of UT’s flagship campus “a smart thing for everybody” considering tension between him and UT President John Petersen.
Petersen is scheduled to meet Tuesday with the UT Faculty Senate for the first time since Crabtree’s resignation earlier this month.
The Faculty Senate has been surveyed on faculty confidence in Petersen and other issues. Plans call for presenting results of the survey to Petersen at the meeting.
“I have a great deal of confidence in Dr. Petersen,” Bredesen said, adding that “I was certainly aware there had been some tension for a long time” between the UT president and Crabtree.
“From what I understand, they had two different conceptions of the university, particularly centered around where the athletics belong and where the School of Agriculture belongs. Probably other kinds of things.
“I’m enough of a business executive that I think you pick somebody to run the ship, and that’s John Petersen. As long as he is running the ship, I think he is the one who should ultimately prevail.”
Bredesen did say, however, he has discussed proposals to increase UT Knoxville enrollment to as high as 35,000 with Petersen and voiced misgivings over the cost of such an expansion.
Current enrollment is around 27,000.
“I told him I wasn’t saying no, but I was skeptical,” Bredesen said, adding that he posed the “counter question” of whether UT would not be better off “growing the research programs” and keeping entrance requirements high, rather than “simply adding five or six thousand more people.”
Either option, he said, “costs a fair amount of money.” A tight state budget means there will be no funds for steps in either direction in the coming year, and Bredesen said he wants to hear discussion of the options before a decision.
As governor, Bredesen sits as chairman of the UT Board of Trustees. He also appoints members of the board.
Crabtree abruptly resigned Jan. 3 after a months-long turf battle with Petersen over the administration and development of the Knoxville campus.
Jan Simek, chief of staff to Crabtree since 2005, was appointed interim chancellor until Crabtree’s permanent successor is found.
Published in The Messenger 1.21.08