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Trustees pass motion to revise Title IX, sexual assault conduct code

Tech’s COVID-19 response, racial diversity and new construction were discussed during the Board of Trustees meeting on Sept. 28. The Board also approved revisions to university policies, and welcomed new members. 

The Board passed the motions to revise both the student conduct rule and the Title IX compliance rule. 

Dr. Katherine Williams, dean of students, took to the podium to provide background and explanation on the changes to student conduct. She stated that by changing this policy they will remove all references to sexual assault and sexual harassment that fall under Title IX from the student conduct policy. They will also make a few minor revisions to language used in the rule.

Greg Holt, the compliance officer for Tech, explained the revisions to the Title IX compliance rule. It will provide new ways to determine if  alleged assault occurs within Tech’s education programs or activities. There are also revisions to the definitions of several key terms found in the rule. Those terms include; sexual harassment, sexual assault, and stalking. (paradiseweddingchapel.com)  

Board of Trustees chair, Trudy Harper, took several minutes at the beginning of the meeting to thank a list of 17 different departments, offices and services that helped Tech transition to all online delivery last spring and reopen this fall.

The Board welcomed Thomas Lynn as the newest trustee. He was appointed by Governor Bill Lee to replace Purna Saggurti as a trustee. Saggurti served on the board from 2017 to 2020. Lynn also replaced Saggurti on the business and audit committee. Lynn is a Tech alumnus and comes from a family of Golden Eagles. 

Governor Lee also appointed Trustee Fred Lowry and Trustee Barry Wilmore to new six year terms.

Daniel Hines replaced Mason Hilliard as the student trustee.This position was voted on by the board of trustees themselves. Hines serves on the Student Government Association’s supreme court. He also holds positions in New Student and Family Programs, Tennessee Tech Parents Association, and the College of Arts & Sciences Student Ambassadors.

Board of Trustees Chair Trudy Harper’s term on the board will be from 2017 until 2022.

President Oldham  took to the podium to give his presidential report on the university.

“I am very delighted to report that Tennessee Tech is in a very strong and enviable position within the state of Tennessee … This campus and everybody apart of this campus continues to work very, very hard each and every day, and I’m most excited about the fact that their driving emphasis each and every day is to put students first. Put students first in everything that we do, that’s what we think about in every decision and implementation of every strategy.”

He went on to express his gratitude that Tech’s persistent planning is having success. He takes the next few minutes to list the many things that have been going on behind the scenes at Tech in preparation for opening up amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Oldham lists that Tech has provided: 

  • 1200 plexiglass barriers
  • 350 medical HEPA air purifiers with UV lights
  • 60 hands sanitizing refill stations
  • 200 point-of-use dispenser 
  • Portable bottles of hand sanitizer to every staff and student
  • 2 masks to every staff and student 
  • 710 humanities shields
  • 200 communicator shields
  • 185 performance masks for the music department 
  • 105 bell covers for musical instruments 
  • 500 social distance floor stickers in purple and gold
  • 500 generic social distance floor stickers
  • 250 entrance and exit sign to route pedestrian traffic 
  • 15 wall mounted no touch temperature stations
  • 6 floor mounted no touch temperature stations 
  • 140 non-contact water faucets in restrooms
  • 150 no touch paper towel dispensers 

“We’ve distributed approx 15,000 disposable masks since March. We’ve doubled the amount of fresh air delivery in indoor spaces by adjusting HVAC systems on campus. We’ve added quarantine space in residence halls. A fully stocked food pantry to support those sick or in quarantine. Of course this is on top of the vast amount of on site  testing that we’ve been doing along with contact tracing through the health services staff as well as our human resources staff,” Oldham said. 

 Oldham then began his update on student success with some updates on graduation rate. Tech saw an increase in graduation rate. 57% of first-time, full-time freshmen graduate in six years.

 A six-year rate is the national standard but Oldham expresses that Tech wants to focus on going beyond the six-year rate and trying to improve Tech’s 4-year rate. Tech’s 4 year rate is 40% currently. 

“For this year, the first time ever, a 40% four-year graduate rate, which I’m pretty sure is one of the highest, probably second highest, four-year graduation rate in the state among public universities, is really substantial and a great compliment to the institution… Going from a 25% 4-year graduation rate to a 40% graduation rate that’s approximately 277 more students that are finishing at least a year sooner than they would have previously,” Oldham said.

The average cost of a year of college with our tuition and typical living expenses is close to $25,000. So you’re saving them about $25,000 each and getting them into the workforce a year earlier. The average starting salaries are in the $50,000 range, mid-$50,000 range. So that’s about a $75,000 direct economic benefit to each one of those students by graduating a year sooner. Since you have 277 of them, the math is pretty simple, that’s approximately a $20 million total economic impact, and that’s annual,” he added.

This year, Tech received $20.1 million for research funding. Oldham revealed that Tech’s goal for research funding is to double it to $40 million by 2025. 

Oldham went on to highlight that a recent economic impact study revealed that Tech’s total economic impact across the state of Tennessee is $1.57 billion annually and $764.69 million to just the Upper Cumberland region. 

Oldham closed by addressing diversity issues on campus and the actions he is taking as president.

“Over the summer I appointed a racial diversity task force, headed by Dr. Rob Owens. I’ve met with various groups of black students, faculty, and staff. I’ve listened and am certainly understanding some of their concerns. I’ve instructed each of the vice presidents to meet with their respective divisions, to openly discuss diversity ad racial equity concerns. I continue to reemphasize our institutional commitment, and that starts at the board,” Oldham said.

“And you as a board, who have been very clear in your support of racial diversity on Tennessee Tech’s campus. I continue to reemphasize our efforts and our commitment with racial equity and to continue to establish a pervasive culture of acceptance on this campus. I think we’re making great progress, but we have a lot of work to do,” he concluded. 

The meeting closed with some comments from the committee chairs. 

The business and audit committee chair, Johnny Stites, spoke about how the business and audit committee received new information about the funding and design of the new engineering building and a new residential hall that will be built in the vicinity of the engineering building.

The next Board of Trustees meeting will take place on December 1, 2020.