Could Total Reform Be in the Works for UT?

The University of Tennessee Trustees gave interim President Jan Simek a long tenure as a fill-in; they seem in no hurry to hire a new president. Meanwhile, the Board of Regents has decided not to name a new chancellor for its campuses "at this time." There is a "caption" bill down at the Legislature on reforming the entire higher-education system for the state. A caption is a placeholder for a bill while special interests and legislators brawl about what will actually be in it when it comes for a final vote. Sometimes it resembles the original bill, sometimes it is the exact opposite.

Given the complexity of the issue, insiders expect the bill to go to a study committee this summer for a full round of public hearings, some behind-the-scenes maneuvering, and a possible massive reorganization bill coming for next year's session.

But there are strong forces at work to change the entire face of higher education with a massive reorganization or a totally different structure. If the issue hangs around until next year, it will probably be a major issue in the gubernatorial race. Outgoing Gov. Phil Bredesen is expected to play a major role in the reform effort; he is ex officio chair of the UT board.