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Sunday, October 24, 2004 

So, it was all the Media's fault?!?

In a recent interview with the Chronicle of Higher Education, former UT President John Shumaker blamed a "slow news season," honest mistakes and an administration poorly prepared to help him "clean up details" for his departure of the University of Tennessee.

To back up a second and make sure that everyone is on the same page, John Shumaker was hired as the president of a second rate state university, my alma mater the University of Tennessee, in March of 2002. He was paid the insane salary of over $600,000 in wages and benefits; making him the second highest paid public University president in the country despite being in a state ranked 35th nationally in per capita spending on higher education. In the summer of 2003, a Knoxville television station ran a series of stories that raised questions about Shumaker's spending practices.

As allegations continued to mount, the breadth of the scandal widened to include not only the misuse of a state issued American Express card and trips on the University's private plane (I feel the need to reiterate my above statement "a second rate state university" when sharing the fact that UT even has a plane) to visit women he may or may not have been sleeping with, but incidents where the University awarded no-bid contracts to former Shumaker business associates, and extremely elaborate purchases including a $7,000 Persian rug, a $4,500 grill and nearly $500,000 to renovate the president's residence (a house that had already undergone some $700,000 worth of work just 2 years prior).

In the end he offered his resignation with the understanding that he would receive a $422,956 severance package. A pretty fucking nice deal, especially when a report by the State Comptroller ruled out any possible criminal prosecution despite the findings of an internal University audit outlining some $31,885.75 in questionable spending.

What followed was a public relations nightmare for the University, a sharp decline in University donations, and in the end the University actually came out with the absurd position that Shumaker had paid back too much money, cutting him a check for a couple thousand dollars.

However, we've come to the one bright spot in our story. With all of this coming in the wake of Tyco, Enron, Adelphia, Martha, etc; the "go get these bastards" attitude found in some (read: very, very few) Democrats coupled with the "we hate this damn university, must cut spending" ideology of East Tennessee conservatives to produce an amazing result. The state actually revoked Shumaker's severance package and let it be known in a less than private manner that he ought to count his blessings. So what does this pirate do? He sues the State of Tennessee for breach of contract.

It’s important to note that the University of Tennessee still refuses to institute a Living Wage for campus workers on the grounds that funds are not available. Oh, and now the UT homepage has this wonderful section entitled Great Things Are Happening.

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