Since the FOCUS Act was signed into law on July 1, ETSU has patiently waited for Gov. Bill Haslam to announce the university’s own Board of Trustees.
On Oct. 11, Gov. Haslam named the eight men and women who are set to serve on ETSU’s inaugural Board of Trustees, upon confirmation by the Tennessee General Assembly this coming spring. ETSU will be one of six public universities across the state to break away from the Tennessee Board of Regents next year. TBR will then shift its focus to community colleges and TCATs.
“To say that today is a historic day in the life our university is an understatement,” said ETSU President Brian Noland in a press conference on Tuesday. “On multiple fronts, announcements have been made that will change the future of this institution.”
The eight appointees to the governing board are: Janet Ayers, president of the Ayers Foundation; Steven DeCarlo, CEO of Amwins Group; David Golden, senior vice president of Eastman Chemical Company; Dorothy Grisham, owner/operator of Allstate Insurance Company; Dr. Linda Latimer, owner of Mountain Regional Pathology; Scott Niswonger, chairman and founder of the Niswonger Educational Foundation; Jim Powell, founder of Powell Companies and Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey of Tennessee.
Fred Alsop, a professor in the ETSU College of Arts and Sciences, was named to the board as the faculty representative. The student representative is expected to be the SGA president of the 2017-2018 academic year.
Noland also announced that Dr. David Linville will serve as the Secretary of the Board of Trustees. Dr. Linville is a tenured professor in the Quillen College of Medicine and chairs ETSU’s Governance Transition Committee.
“As you look across the individuals who will provide leadership, guidance and direction for our institution, these are individuals who have made personal commitments to this institution – many of whom are alum,” Noland said. “They’re individuals who are recognized and accomplished in their professions. They are individuals who I know personally that I am proud to have the opportunity to work with and to serve.”
Once the board is approved, ETSU will be in charge of a variety of decisions including tuition and fee increases. These public meetings will provide faculty, staff and students a unique opportunity to voice their concerns directly to the board, which was not always possible under the full control of TBR in Nashville.
With these decisions happening closer to home, students will know tuition and fee increases sooner, which will give them the opportunity to prepare to cover their educational costs at a much earlier date.
Noland sees the formation of this new board as a benefit for ETSU because each university in the current TBR system has unique needs.
“Right now, the Board of Regents oversees everything from Mountain City to Memphis, from welding programs to medical residency programs,” he said. “Our Board of Trustees will be solely focused on the health, welfare and future of East Tennessee State University.”
Noland believes that the diversity of the board, which is made of small business owners, educators, physicians and more, is reflective of the diverse academic programs at the university.
One concern about the new board is that the student representative will not have voting power. ETSU Student Government vice president Nathan Farnor is working to change that.
“Currently, staff does not get a representative at all, and the student spot is a non-voting spot,” Farnor said. “I have been working on this for about a year, and I’m still fighting it.”
Farnor believes that in order for the goals of the board to be fully met, the faculty, staff and students need equal representation.
“The goal of the board was to help improve the university and allow it to self-govern itself,” he said. “I believe that is only possible if all of the parties are given a seat at the table.”
ETSU will continue to be under the control of TBR until the appointees are confirmed sometime in early 2017.