University Diaries
A professor of English describes American university life.
Aim: To change things.
Contact UD at: margaret-dot-soltan-at-gmail-dot-com

Read my book, TEACHING BEAUTY IN DeLILLO, WOOLF, AND MERRILL (Palgrave Macmillan; forthcoming), co-authored with Jennifer Green-Lewis. VISIT MY BRANCH CAMPUS AT INSIDE HIGHER ED

UD is...
"Salty." (Scott McLemee)
"Unvarnished." (Phi Beta Cons)
"Splendidly splenetic." (Culture Industry)
"Except for University Diaries, most academic blogs are tedious."
(Rate Your Students)
"I think of Soltan as the Maureen Dowd of the blogosphere,
except that Maureen Dowd is kind of a wrecking ball of a writer,
and Soltan isn't. For the life of me, I can't figure out her
politics, but she's pretty fabulous, so who gives a damn?"
(Tenured Radical)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Unsafe, Unlivable:
Housing Scandal in Tennessee

It’s time to revisit the nation’s most corrupt university system, Tennessee's. As she noted a couple of years ago, UD doesn’t know why Tennessee always comes out on top when the subject turns to malfeasance, but there you are.

Having given the appalling President Shumaker (a Benjamin Ladner clone) the heave-ho, the UT system now finds itself with a chancellor at the Memphis campus with similar deadly sin problems. Plus a wife.

"Should Dr. (John) Petersen (UT president) and the (Board of Trustees) decide that Bill is a valuable member of the UT organization, I may reconsider my decision. Until then I can no longer stand by and watch my husband be treated in a less than appropriate fashion."

I love this sort of writing. Acid teaparty. Wife wrote this in an email -- it’s a threat to collect her husband and leave (they pretty much just got there) -- and I guess she thought her threat would remain private, but someone forwarded it to the world at large.

Why are these people so angry?

Because this house was unacceptable.

and because this new house

(due to some scheduling problems, the tax payers of Tennessee are paying both mortgages at the moment) is also unacceptable. Yes, yes, the plasma tv ($4,500) has been installed [‘"It is troubling that someone who makes over $300,000 a year cannot purchase their own TV and continues to pressure their staff to find ways to purchase one," wrote Mark Paganelli, head of UT's audit department. ‘]; but there is so much more!

The school owns a $1 million Memphis home that underwent a recent $500,000 renovation.

Yet UT bought a second Memphis home last August -- this one for $1.3 million -- because of a promise it made to chancellor Bill Owen when he was hired last year.

Because of a lengthy bid process, the school can't sell the old home until August of this year, said UT spokesman Hank Dye.

UT is paying utilities and maintenance on both homes, all at taxpayer-expense.

…Alice Owen [Angry Wife] said she took a good look at the old chancellor's home, a 5,559-square-foot home at 549 Goodwyn, and decided she didn't like it.

By August, UT arranged for the state to buy the new chancellor's home on Morningside -- complete with a wet bar, four fireplaces, four baths and a swimming pool.

Alice Owen soon found plenty to complain about with the new home too.

In a Jan. 3 e-mail to chief of staff Ken Brown, she threatened to return to Durham, N.C. The family was "promised university housing that was not safe or livable," she wrote, saying "promises of a decorating budget to decorate the chancellor's residence" weren't fulfilled.