Gov. Phil Bredesen called a UT Board of Trustees ad hoc committee meeting to examine the Board's role in how they monitored the actions of former university presidents on Wednesday at the University Club.
The governor requested that the Board identify areas of past oversight and recommended corrective actions to improve accountability and responsibility, according to UT Trustee Rhynette Hurd.
Bredesen pointed out weaknesses in the board's structure highlighted by administrative flaws.
"In this whole process it seems to me that there were areas of softness in Board oversight," Bredesen said. However, he warned against micro-management and encouraged more defined roles within the Board.
Understanding organizational flaws was a key meeting objective. Interim UT President Joe Johnson commented, "There has been a multitude of change. ... I guess what Eli (Fly) and I are trying to do is figure out is what the organizational structure is."
Johnson attributed much of the confusion to drastic reductions in the number of executive committees within the Board.
"We effectively went from 12 or 13 (committees) to two, and folks I think that's too much consolidation," Johnson said.
He agreed with other attendees that the lack of structure and balance blurred lines of accountability between presidential administrations and the trustees. Hurd characterized the recent series of events as the "Bermuda Triangle" of confusion.
Members suggested that a balance of a few chartered committees would efficiently solve problems concerning scheduling difficulties, lack of leadership and definitions of responsibility.
The members proposed development of an internal audit committee that would examine monthly internal audits, bypassing the president. There was a suggestion for the implementation of an anonymous pipeline from university staff to the trustees, whereby staff could report questionable actions of administrators without fear of retaliation.
Another point of discussion concerned the position of a chief financial officer. Eli Fly, acting interim executive vice president, was CFO until his interim presidential appointment in 2001.
The role was terminated at that time and was only reinstated this past month. Members agreed that the lack of a CFO during John W. Shumaker's presidency allowed for spending lapses and suggested that the university should maintain the position in future administrations.
The ad hoc committee also analyzed the UT Board of Trustees oath, which outlines their responsibilities and suggested solutions to future oversights. These changes include creating a code of ethics, outlining the role of a Trustee and establishing peer evaluations.
"I hope we come up with a basic philosophy of how we do business," Hurd said.
She proposed continuing education for Board members that would possibly include a mentor system, participation in national university governing organizations and increased understanding of university operations and finances.
Hurd said that the role of the Board is not to represent any specific group and is strictly in place to conduct the business of the state of Tennessee.
Mark Paganelli, executive director of Audit and Management Services, presented 10 initiatives that have been or are currently being implemented by the university in response to an internal audit of Shumaker's spending habits.
The ad hoc committee's full board report is due to Bredesen on Oct. 10.
Board of Trustees investigates
Published: Fri Sep 19, 2003 | Modified: Sat Aug 06, 2005 05:22 p.m.