Boring is not a word someone should use to describe the last academic year.
“Pokemon Go App sends students on quest to ‘Catch em all,’” “ETSU art student found dead,” “ETSU student in a gorilla mask confronts Black Lives Matter demonstrators,” “Gov. Haslam announces members of ETSU governing board” and “ETSU students camp out for free March Madness tickets” are just a few of the major headlines in the East Tennessean this year.
From August 2016 through April 30, 2017, ETSU underwent some major changes.
Students began the year to find a “new and improved” Marketplace under the control of ETSU’s new food service provider, Sodexo. A new Student Government Association president, vice president, secretary, cabinet and senate took office and ETSU Parking Services increased parking ticket fees.
By early October, Gov. Bill Haslam announced the nominees for ETSU’s new Board of Trustees, which had its inaugural meeting on March 24. Now, ETSU is no longer under the full control of the Tennessee Board of Regents.
Some of the major hot topics of discussion included hate crimes and sexual harassment.
On Sept. 28, now former ETSU student Tristan Rettke confronted a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration in Borchuck Plaza barefoot, dressed in a gorilla mask and overalls carrying a “Lives Matter” sign, a confederate flag burlap sack and bananas tied with rope. Rettke was arrested and now faces two charges of civil rights intimidation, two counts of disorderly conduct and disrupting a meeting. Rettke pleaded not guilty in April, and will return to court on June 20.
Rettke’s actions united campus and inspired administration to create a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Task Force.
An investigation by WJHL in February revealed tenured ETSU music professor David Champoullion was under investigation by the university for sexual harassment after several teachers filed a formal complaint. Champoullion, who is currently banned from campus and under paid leave, has yet to find out whether or not he will be allowed to return to ETSU.
ETSU President Brian Noland is reviewing the investigation and disciplinary board’s recommendation to have Champoullion terminated. Noland is expected to make a recommendation to the Board of Trustees soon.
Since August 28, there were five reported instances of sexual assault, one reported case of inappropriate touching, one attempted robbery, one armed robbery and one case of fraud on campus this year. ETSU Public Safety discovered two crimes to be unfounded– a sexual assault and an aggravated assault.
Sadly, ETSU had shockingly zero snow days this year, but one tornado day the week before spring break.
While not all of the news has been happy, there were some high points.
ETSU students returned from spring break excited to cheer on the Buccaneer men’s basketball team as they took on Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament.
Close to 500 students registered to vote and many had the opportunity to participate in their first presidential election.
Martin Luther King Jr.’s daughter, Bernice King, spoke on campus. Billy Currington and Moon Taxi were the SGA fall and spring concerts, respectively. Popular ride-sharing service, Uber, arrived in Johnson City, and ETSU became a styrofoam free campus.
When wildfires devastated Gatlinburg, ETSU was there to gather supplies and rally together volunteers to bring aid to those who were impacted.
The 2016-2017 academic year was full of highs, lows, scandals and changes, and all of those stories are available online at easttennessean.com.