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Resolutions 2021 – 2022


WHEREAS COVID-19 case counts have been rapidly increasing in Knox County and the county has been designated as an area of high transmission by the CDC1 ; and

WHEREAS the University of Tennessee, Knoxville has mandated a return to full-capacity inperson teaching during Fall 2021; and

WHEREAS physical distancing in classrooms is not possible; and

WHEREAS the vaccination status of the campus population is not known; and

WHEREAS the CDC guidance for Institutions of Higher Education2 states, “Particularly in areas of substantial to high transmission, IHEs in collaboration with their local or state health department may consider maintaining or implementing additional prevention strategies including physical distancing and mask use indoors by all students, faculty, staff, and other people such as visitors, including those who are fully vaccinated”;

BE IT THEREFORE RESOLVED that, in the interest of the health and safety of UTK and the broader Knoxville community, decisions about course modality be returned to individual faculty members, and that, in consultation with their department head, faculty have the right to choose online delivery of their courses in response to the current, evolving pandemic situation.

Resolution passed.



UTK values the well-being of its employees and recognizes that bullying in the workplace can significantly impact a person’s dignity and their physical and mental health. Hence, UTK is committed to maintaining a healthy educational and work environment. We recognize that there are many possible work locations for UTK faculty and staff, whether on or off campus, and that the impact of bullying is the same regardless of work location. All employees, as well as those interacting with employees in the course of UTK’s operations, have the right to be treated with dignity and respect. As part of an overall effort to have a workplace free from
abusive conduct, UTK prohibits employees from engaging in bullying, as defined below, while conducting campus business.

This policy applies to faculty or staff who may be the subject of the complaint, regardless of the complainant’s role at UT.

Definitions used in this policy
Bullying, a type of abusive conduct, includes acts or omissions that would cause a reasonable person, based on the severity, nature, and/or frequency of the conduct, to believe that they are subject to an abusive work environment. Bullying may include but is not limited to the following, whether directed towards an individual or a group:

• Verbal abuse in the workplace, including derogatory remarks, insults, and epithets;
• Verbal, nonverbal, or physical conduct of a threatening, intimidating, or humiliating
nature in the workplace; or
• The sabotage or undermining of an employee’s work performance in the workplace.

A single act generally will not constitute bullying, unless the conduct is determined to be severe and egregious.

Behaviors that constitute bullying, if directed towards an individual or group, may include:
• Physical, verbal, or written (print and/or electronic) acts;
• Behaviors that exclude, ignore, dismiss, or ostracize;
• Tampering, damaging, or destroying work output;
• Using condescending, humiliating, or vulgar language;
• Shouting or using obscene, derogatory, mocking gestures and language;
• Knowingly making false statements, verbally or in writing; or,
• Frequent criticizing or blaming that is unfounded.                                                                                                                                                                    Bullying behavior does not include:
• Rude or inconsiderate behavior that does not single out an individual or group;
• Disciplinary procedures undertaken in accordance with applicable campus policies;
• Routine coaching and counseling, including feedback about and correction of work performance;
• Conveying reasonable work assignments, including shift and overtime assignments;
• Exercising individual differences in styles of personal expression;
• Engaging in passionate, loud expression with no intent to harm others;
• Expressing differences of opinion on work-related concerns; or,
• The non-abusive exercise of managerial prerogative.

Policy Provisions

1. It is important to note that conduct that may constitute unlawful discrimination or harassment should be reported to the Office of Equity and Diversity (865-974-2498 or UTK has a policy that prohibits unlawful discrimination and harassment. While workplace bullying can be intertwined with unlawful discrimination and harassment, bullying behavior can occur apart from these other forms of misconduct. Regardless, workplace bullying is prohibited by this policy and is inconsistent with The University of Tennessee’s Code of Conduct (HR0580), which prohibits conduct that disrespects others.

2. UTK offers faculty and staff informal resources to assist them when they have concerns regarding bullying incidents. Faculty and staff are welcomed to explore these resources that can help them navigate the workplace situation through either informal conversations or formal processes. These resources include, but are not limited to: the Office of Human Resources, the Office of the Ombuds Services, and the Employee Assistance Program, as well as any other resource offered at the departmental level.

3. If an informal resolution is not feasible or any party wishes to follow a formal process, an official complaint may be submitted directly to the Office of Human Resources. Formal complaints must be in writing and filed within 300 days of the most recent incident. Please call the Office of Human Resources to speak to the Director of Employee Relations (or the director’s designee) to file a complaint. In certain circumstances, at the discretion of the HR, complaints filed outside that time limit, or not submitted in writing, may be investigated.

The Office of Human Resources will investigate all formal complaints of workplace bullying within 60 calendar days unless extenuating circumstances prohibit a timely investigation. If the last day of the 60-day deadline falls on a non-business day, the deadline would extend to the following business day. Members of the UTK community shall cooperate with the review and/or investigative process. Even if there is no finding of policy violation, HR may share organizational observations in order to improve working relationships.

4. The Office of Human Resources will report all findings in workplace bullying
investigations and make recommendations to the appropriate campus administrators not named in the complaint (supervisor, next-level supervisor, Department Head, Dean, Provost, and/or Chancellor). That administrator, in consultation with the university’s Office of the General Counsel, will make any and all final decisions related to the finding, taking corrective action when warranted. While the process is underway, the University may impose interim measures for the duration of the review, including but not limited to administrative leave. All parties named in the complaint will receive a decision letter in writing within one year of the original complaint unless extenuating circumstances prohibit a timely resolution.

5. A Workplace Bullying Advisory Committee, which will be appointed by the Chancellor, will consist of two representatives from the Faculty Senate, two representatives from ERC, and one representative from the Office of Equity and Diversity. The committee is charged with providing outreach and awareness through educational campaigns and activities for the campus community. It may also make suggestions for possible policy revision.

6. UTK values and promotes freedom of expression as provided under applicable law. Nothing in this policy is intended to limit or restrict a person’s First Amendment rights, rights to academic freedom, or professional disclosure rights or obligations. However, none of these rights or obligations includes an entitlement to engage in workplace bullying that disrupts campus business and an employee’s ability to perform their duties.

7. UTK is committed to providing a safe and secure campus environment for members of the campus community. Workplace violence impedes these goals and endangers the entire community. Violent behavior is prohibited in or on any campus facility or while participating in any university activity. Any incident that involves a threat of violence or physical harm should be reported immediately and referred to law enforcement.

8. UTK will not tolerate, and this policy expressly prohibits, retaliation against employees making good faith reports as provided for in this policy, even where the concerns are ultimately unsubstantiated. False reports of prohibited behavior that are found to have been made intentionally are also a violation of this policy. Policy violations may result in University disciplinary action in accordance with established policies and procedures, as appropriate.

Compliance with this Policy
Compliance with this policy is mandatory. For assistance with interpreting or applying its provisions, contact your campus HR. Any person covered by this policy who engages in workplace bullying is subject to disciplinary sanctions up to and including termination or dismissal from the University.


Be it resolved that the UTK Faculty Senate formally requests that the UTK Chancellor
establish a policy for UTK that aligns with the wording in the proposed Bullying Policy
above, and furthermore requests that the System administration move forward
expeditiously to institute a UT System Code of Conduct Policy and that the Faculty
Senate President is charged to bring this request to the UT President for action, noting the extensive effort already invested and that incorporation of such a policy would align us with many of our peer higher education systems.

The resolution passed.



WHEREAS the Tennessee General Assembly is considering Senate Bill 2290/House Bill 2670 (“Senate Bill 2290”), which seeks to limit “divisive concepts” in higher education; and

WHEREAS Senate Bill 2290 defines “divisive concepts” broadly, which could
arguably limit teaching, speaking, and researching that involves critical
perspectives on race, gender, sex, sexual orientation, religion, and other forms of
identity; and

WHEREAS Section Four of Senate Bill 2290 authorizes an “individual who
believes that a violation . . . has occurred, [to] pursue all equitable or legal
remedies that may be available. . . in a court of competent jurisdiction;” and

WHEREAS Senate Bill 2290, by referencing litigation, could chill academic
discussion of important issues, including discussions involving race, gender, sex,
sexual orientation, religion, and other forms of identity; and

WHEREAS the American Association of University Professors’ (AAUP) 1940
Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure affirms that, “teachers
are entitled to freedom in the classroom in discussing their subject;” and,

WHEREAS over seventy organizations, including the American Association of
University Professors (AAUP) and the Association of American Colleges and
Universities (AACU), issued the Joint Statement on Legislative Efforts to Restrict
Education about Racism and American History (June 16, 2021) stating their “firm
opposition to a spate of legislative proposals being introduced across the country
that target academic lessons, presentations, and discussions of racism and related
issues in American history in schools, colleges and universities;” and

WHEREAS exposing students to a diversity of views, including contested views,
better prepares students to participate in a competitive, multinational, and
multicultural workforce; and

WHEREAS the primary mission of the University of Tennessee is to move
forward the frontiers of human knowledge to enrich and elevate the citizens of the
state of Tennessee, the nation, and the world; and,

WHEREAS the 2021 Faculty Handbook, Section 2.1.1 affirms that “faculty
members have the right to academic freedom and are expected to seek and to speak
the truth as they perceive it on the basis of expertise and research in their
WHEREAS the 2021 Faculty Handbook, Section 2.1.1 also affirms that
“academic freedom is this right for faculty members to teach, research, create, and
perform about their knowledge and understanding in their discipline.”

WHEREAS the 2021 Faculty Handbook, Section 1.7 affirms that the faculty have
the “primary role in determining curriculum [and] educational policy.”

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED that the UTK Faculty Senate affirms the
academic freedom of every faculty member to research, write, speak, and teach
within their discipline, even if their work confronts issues or reflects views that
others might deem controversial or divisive.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the UTK affirmatively rejects any efforts
from bodies external to the faculty, other than the Tennessee Higher Education
Commission and organizations charged with supervising accreditation processes
and standards, to censor or dictate university curriculum on any matter, including
matters related to racial justice, social justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The Resolution passed.



WHEREAS, Dr. Louis Gross, Chancellor’s Professor and Alvin and Sally Beaman Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and Mathematics; Director Emeritus, National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis; and Director, The Institute for Environmental Modeling, is a highly-respected colleague who is internationally known for his research and promotion of mathematical and biological synthesis, and

WHEREAS, he has served with distinction as President of the Faculty Senate for two terms, providing strong leadership to ensure the effectiveness of the Faculty Senate in shared governance, and persistently voicing the concerns and questions brought forward by the faculty to be addressed by the Administration, and

WHEREAS, he continued to advocate for the safety of faculty throughout this year’s COVID-19 surge, bringing science and evidence-based reasoning to bear in all his conversations with the Administration, Board members, and the Press, and

WHEREAS, he tirelessly worked to advance the Senate relationships with Chancellor Plowman and Provost Zomchick, providing the bridge for Senate understanding of Administrative actions and the Chancellor and Provost’s understandings of faculty concerns, and

WHEREAS, he brought to bear his immense institutional knowledge to ask the right and good questions about the Anming Hu case, University Re-structuring discussions, and the Budget Allocation Model, including his untiring question of funding for UT Athletics, and

WHEREAS, he has been a positive force for improvement at UT through his interactions with faculty, staff, students, alumni, board of trustees’ members, and administrators,

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the University of Tennessee Knoxville Faculty Senate expresses its sincere appreciation to Dr. Louis Gross for his exemplary and long-time leadership and service to the Senate and the University of Tennessee, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT a copy of this Resolution be presented to

Dr. Louis Gross and that the Resolution become part of the minutes of the Senate meeting held on May 2, 2022.

The Resolution passed.




“WHEREAS, Brooke Killion, Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling, has served as the Graduate Research Assistant of the UTK Faculty Senate for five years, and  

WHEREAS, she assured the smooth functioning of the Faculty Senate meetings, and   

WHEREAS, she has guided the election process for new Faculty Senators to assure continued faculty participation in shared governance, and   

WHEREAS, she helped guide Faculty Senate committee function and communication, and   

WHEREAS, she assisted the Faculty Affairs Committee in auditing of department and college bylaws, and   

WHEREAS, she provided ongoing research and data consultations for the ad hoc informational needs of multiple Senate committees, and   

WHEREAS, she expanded the data and research capacity of the Senate, including an emergency survey of faculty instructional needs during the transition to online teaching caused by the COVID pandemic, and   

WHEREAS, she has been a constant source of knowledge about the functioning of the UTK Faculty Senate for multiple Faculty Senate presidents and our new Administrative Assistant, who each relied on her skills, expertise, initiative, and knowledge to help them do their jobs, and   

WHEREAS, he has built and maintained positive working relationships with Senators, and   

WHEREAS, she will be greatly missed by all who have served on UTK Faculty Senate over the last five years,   

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT the University of Tennessee Faculty Senate expresses its sincere appreciation to Brooke Killion for her exemplary and long-time leadership and service to the Senate and the University of Tennessee, and   

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT a copy of this Resolution be presented to Brooke Killion and that the Resolution become part of the minutes of the Senate meeting held on May 2, 2022.” 

The Resolution passed.



WHEREAS, Jerry Riehl provided twenty-two years of exemplary leadership and tireless service that had an immeasurable impact at The University of Tennessee-Knoxville and

WHEREAS, in his role of Manager of Course Design and Delivery in the Office of Information Technology he provided expertise, guidance, consultation, and team leadership supporting the identification, evaluation, and deployment of multiple instructional technology tools for the campus and

WHEREAS, his leadership, in collaboration with faculty and student representatives, was instrumental in bringing to campus the learning management system Canvas, which has been transformational in faculty’s ability to deliver multimedia educational materials to students and

WHEREAS, Jerry Riehl provided well-informed guidance and direction in researching

synchronous delivery platforms to satisfy the requirements and demands of emergent online degree programs across the campus, resulting in the adoption of Zoom in 2014 and

WHEREAS, with the COVID pandemic in 2020 and the increased need for a virtual teaching and meeting platform, Jerry Riehl expanded UTK Zoom agreements and implemented a statewide enterprise Zoom contract for the UT System in 2021 and

WHEREAS, beginning in 2016, Jerry Riehl served with the UTK Emergency Operations Center as part of the academic continuity team, subsequently providing expertise enabling the broad shift across the UTK campus to online course delivery during the COVID pandemic and

WHEREAS, Jerry Riehl was a beloved leader, colleague, and mentor to numerous full-time staff, multiple faculty members, and generations of graduate student assistants

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Faculty Senate celebrates Jerry Riehl for his demonstrated and unwavering dedication to the mission of our institution to “Empower learners of all ages and backgrounds to achieve their dreams through accessible and affordable education and state-of-the-art research training opportunities” and


Tennessee-Knoxville offers its most sincere condolences to the family of Jerry Riehl and our deep appreciation for his twenty-two years of selfless service to this institution, its students, faculty, and staff.

The Resolution passed.