Controversy surrounds President Bob Bell’s April 21 retirement banquet.
Some students are concerned about alcohol being served at the function, while faculty and staff are choosing not to attend due to the $42 attendance fee.
The banquet, which is in the RUC, is closed to students, with the exception of the Student String Quartet and the Student Government Association’s president, Lee Gatts. The quartet will play during the dinner, when wine will no longer be served.
The banquet reception, which starts at 6 p.m., will feature the Tech-themed wines from Del Monaco Winery, with proceeds going to Tech’s Alumni Association. The wine will only be served during the reception, out in the lobby area of the Multipurpose Room, according to Debbie Combs, special projects coordinator.
Dinner will be in the Multipurpose Room, where the wine will not be served. Anyone holding a glass of wine will be asked to leave the drink outside, before entering the Multipurpose Room.
Chartwells is providing the food, but a licensed bartender and trained alcohol server will be dispersing the wine. The bartender will be donating his time at the reception.
According to Combs, wine was not served at President Volpe’s retirement banquet in 2000.
The Tennessee Board of Regent’s policy allows for alcohol service at special request, and can be requested only by that university’s president.
“The University is an alcohol-free campus, but we have the right to designate-the president is the only person who can do it-a particular venue that is not focused on a student event,” Bell said.
According to Gay Shepard, Tech’s chief of police, it is uncommon for alcohol to be served at campus events.
“He shouldn’t deserve special treatment because he is the president, if he is making this a dry campus. It is kind of a double standard,” Trista Travis, senior wildlife fishery science major, said.
“It should not be allowed here for him, if it is not allowed for the rest of the school.”
Tori Ragan, sophomore physical therapy major, said, “I guess Bell is contradicting the rules, but then again, he can kind of do whatever he wants.”
Hillary Ross, sophomore elementary education major, said that she doubts it would be approved another Tech organization wanted to serve alcohol on campus.
Faculty and Staff Respond:
The RSVP response, as of April 10, was 407 people. Many faculty and staff said they believe that the price of attending the banquet is an issue.
The fee covers the reception, wine, dinner and operating costs, including printing and postage.
Kris Craven, assistant professor of engineering, said that the reason she is not attending the banquet is because “it is too expensive.”
According to Bell, the price is expensive, but appropriate for an event like the banquet. He said that he is paying for all of his family to come, so he understands that it is expensive.
Ricky Cartwright, mail carrier, said, “I thought about it, but not for $42.”
Phillip Talley, dining services employee, said he believes the banquet should be free.
Bell said, “We are having a picnic on the campus for faculty and staff, and that is typically the celebration that the campus does.”
The picnic is May 1 on the Main Quad and is free for students, faculty, staff and the community.
Bell went on to say the banquet is for state leaders.
“I am excited,” Bell said. “There are folks coming to that banquet I have not seen in five, 10 years maybe. There are a lot of leaders from all over the state coming in. It will be fun for me and Gloria, and I am honored that they are doing it.”
The banquet will have speakers from the following organizations: Tech Emeriti faculty and administration; Tech administration, faculty, clerical and support staff, friends and alumni; the TBR; the Tennessee Higher Education Commission; SGA; City of Cookeville; U.S. Congress and the Tennessee General Assembly.
After the speakers talk at the banquet, there will be time for the President and First Lady to speak as well.