A number of issues arise each session that could impact the University of Tennessee System. Each Friday, a lookout list of selected issues will be posted here. Advocates are encouraged to follow these issues closely so that they will be informed on issues and their history when advocacy alerts are issued.
- Guns On Campus: As in previous sessions, gun legislation is expected to be filed and debated at length. In the past, this legislation has taken various forms, sometimes exclusively seeking to increase the presence of weapons on public college campuses in Tennessee. The University of Tennessee System continues to support the law in its current form surrounding this issue. State law already allows select individuals to possess and carry guns on campus in conjunction with their official duties. According to law enforcement experts, an increased firearms presence on campus would hinder law enforcement’s ability to provide campus security and reduce effectiveness when confronted with a violent or stressful situation. In the presence of multiple shooters, for example, officers would have no efficient way to distinguish a well-meaning shooter from an offender.
- Funding: State funding is again strained this year. The Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s (THEC) operating budget recommendation includes a $35.5 million increase and a $14.1 million increase for non-formula units, such as the UT Institute for Public Service, the Institute of Agriculture, and the UT Health Science Center. The recommended increase for non-formula units is critically important due to potential federal reductions in areas such as agriculture extension and agriculture research funding. Unlike UT’s traditional three campuses, these units have a more limited (if any) tuition mechanism to help offset either state or federal cuts. A growing interest exists amongst the legislature to establish recurring funding for the Institute for Public Service’s Law Enforcement Innovation Center (LEIC). This nationally acclaimed law enforcement center provides innovative and technology-based training and technical assistance to law enforcement agencies and communities.THEC’s recommended capital budget includes two major UT projects: the UT Health Science Center’s renovation to the Crowe, Nash, and Mooney Building Complex and the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s new multidisciplinary science laboratory facility. These projects account for $135.9 million, or 47 percent of THEC’s total recommended capital budget for public higher education. Regarding capital maintenance, THEC recommends an appropriation of $44.3 million for the University of Tennessee System.These recommendations were made by THEC to the Governor in November 2012. The Governor’s budget proposal will likely be released in conjunction with his State of the State Address, set for January 28, 2013.
- Supercomputer: The U.S. Department of Energy is currently considering funding its third and final supercomputer program. Matching support from the State of Tennessee in the amount of $20 million would demonstrate the state’s commitment to the partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy and would help advance computational modeling for scientific research and economic development. UT and ORNL have maintained the world’s fastest supercomputer, processing over 60% of the National Science Foundation’s funded research. The supercomputer positions the state to be a world leader in climate and pharmaceutical research, materials science, and computational modeling. The remote connection ability that the supercomputer provides allows for statewide access and benefit, attracting high levels of economic investment and high paying jobs.
- Proton Therapy: Again this year the University of Tennessee System is looking to advance a unique opportunity in the area of proton therapy research and treatment. The University is not seeking state funding for this area, but is seeking permissive language that clearly authorizes the UT Research Foundation to partner with a private entity that is bringing this technology and treatment to Tennessee.
- UT Peds: UT Peds, which seeks to advance research and treatment of childhood diseases, has requested matching state funds of $2.96 million annually for five years. UT Peds is a partnership between St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, LeBonheur Children’s Medical Center, and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
- In Washington, the University is focused on two key areas: Securing new partnerships with federal agencies to generate research opportunities and funding, and building understanding amongst lawmakers and agency officials of UT’s value to current areas of research. Although overall cuts to funding at the federal level are virtually unavoidable, the University hopes to protect funding for many of its key initiatives and activities.
- Congress was in recess this week. Activity resumes on Monday, January 14.
There are no active advocacy alerts at this time. Advocates can play a key role in building support for the University by staying informed and engaged in the political process. Don’t miss an opportunity to tell elected officials who you are and why you support the University of Tennessee. Ask them to support the University of Tennessee System and its multiple missions of education, research and outreach.