Tennessee finalizes settlement with ousted chancellor
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The University of Tennessee has finalized a $1.33 million settlement with ousted chancellor Beverly Davenport, formally ending her employment at the school after a tumultuous tenure that lasted less than 1 ½ years.
The Board of Trustees’ audit and compliance committee held a conference call Tuesday, approving a separation agreement announced Friday .
“As I leave, I want to thank all of those people I had the opportunity to stand alongside in doing this noble work,” Davenport said as part of a statement delivered via Twitter . “Higher education is no small feat. It is not for the weak, but it has indeed been one of the great privileges of my life to have served as the eighth Chancellor of the flagship campus of the University of Tennessee.”
Five of the six audit and compliance committee members voted in favor. Waymon Hickman couldn’t participate due to an illness in the family.
“I think I along with all the trustees were very hopeful when we hired our first female chancellor, it was going to be successful,” committee member Sharon Pryse said. “I’m sorry it was not a successful outcome.”
Tennessee President Joe DiPietro had announced May 2 that Davenport would be removed as chancellor on July 1, citing an evaluation that had “numerous areas of unsatisfactory performance.” She’s been on administrative leave since, with Wayne Davis serving as interim chancellor .
The original plan called for Davenport to take a faculty position July 1 in the college of communication and information — a seemingly odd fit, since her termination letter said her “one-on-one, small group and business transactional communication skills are very poor.”
That letter also cited Davenport’s “unsatisfactory” relationship with DiPietro and his leadership team, her inability to acclimate to the UT system, her lack of organization and failure to communicate a strategic vision.
Davenport would have received about $2 million in salary and benefits over the first four years of her faculty appointment had she accepted the post, and an annual salary of $164,632 starting in her fifth year.
Davenport instead ends her Tennessee employment as part of this settlement.
Tennessee approved a policy in December 2017 that says former chancellors or university presidents returning to teaching can’t receive more than 125 percent of the highest salary of a full-time faculty member in the department with the same discipline and rank.
Davenport was eligible for a higher salary as a communications professor because she arrived at Tennessee before the policy change, officials said. She was hired as chancellor in November 2016 and took over in February 2017.
One of Davenport’s first moves as Tennessee’s chancellor was to hire John Currie as athletic director . Currie lasted just eight months before Davenport placed him on paid leave and replaced him with former football coach Phillip Fulmer. Currie eventually reached a $2.5 million settlement with the school.
According to emails obtained in a public records request, Davenport removed Currie one day after she spent six hours unsuccessfully trying to reach him about the state of Tennessee’s football coaching search.
The turnover in the athletic department wasn’t the only issue to draw scrutiny during Davenport’s brief tenure.
Last fall, Tennessee’s Knoxville campus opted against privatizing its facilities management services . Gov. Bill Haslam had said outsourcing could enable schools to save money. Afterward, DiPietro said he would task chancellors of campuses who declined such moves with finding equivalent savings without outsourcing.
Under terms of her settlement, Davenport has agreed not to look for a new job with the university or the state of Tennessee. She also isn’t allowed to take any action or issue any statements disparaging the university, the Board of Trustees, DiPietro or other university employees.
School officials say no taxpayer dollars, tuitions, student fees and donor funds are being used to pay for the settlement. The money instead is coming from interest income and licensing revenue.
In the farewell statement she tweeted, Davenport thanked the university’s students, faculty, staff, alumni and donors as well as the Knoxville community.
“If we have done our job, our students will have left us prioritizing the well-being of others,” Davenport said in her statement. “They will have left us courageous, noble, ready to help those less fortunate than themselves, ready to lead with character and longevity. If we have done our job, they could not be more job ready or more ready for life.”