Tech Board approves housing rate freeze, compensation plans

COOKEVILLE – With a full agenda for the meeting, the Tennessee Tech Board of Trustees froze on-campus housing rates for the upcoming school year, approved compensation plans for employees and heard about Tech’s strategic diversity efforts.

Diversity Efforts

Robert Owens was named to the newly elevated chief diversity officer position. Previously, the position was an additional role for Marc Burnett, the former vice president for Student Affairs who retired at the end of 2019. The position will now be a permanent addition to the president’s cabinet. Owens has over 15 years in progressive senior administrative roles at Tennessee Tech and is currently the interim vice president for Student Affairs. His previous position was assistant vice president for Student Affairs, focusing on access and diversity. He holds four degrees from Tech (B.S., M.B.A., Ed.S. and Ph.D). The existing Office of Multicultural Affairs will provide support for this position.

Owens and Brandon Johnson, vice president for Enrollment Management and Career Placement, presented a detailed update on the ethnic diversity enrollment recruitment plan, developed to achieve the university’s strategic goal of 22% enrollment of ethnically diverse students. The centerpiece of this plan is the establishment of a multicultural summer leadership academy for multicultural student leaders at the high school level. 

Budget/Financial Information

Governor’s 2021-2022 Proposed Budget

Gov. Bill Lee’s proposed 2021-2022 budget includes more than $64 million for Tennessee Tech’s annual appropriation, along with the capital appropriation for Tech of $57 million, including $49.2 million for the new engineering building and $7.8 million for the repair, maintenance and renovation of campus facilities.

Compensation Plans

The board approved two items related to employee compensation. A one-time payment for full- and part-time permanent employees to address the fact that proposed 2020 raises were pulled back by the state in the early days of the pandemic. For employees with a satisfactory or better rating on their 2020 evaluation, there will be a $1,000 one-time payment (pro-rated for permanent part-time employees), pending approval of the governor’s budget by the legislature. 

For 2021-2022, there will be recurring salary increases based on an employee’s 2020 and 2021 evaluations. Employees with a satisfactory or better rating will be eligible for these raises, which will range from 1% to 7% to provide supervisors and department chairs with flexibility. This means that all employees will receive at least a 1% raise, as long as they have a satisfactory review. These increases will be effective July 1, also pending approval of the governor’s budget.

Non-mandatory fees

The university announced that there will be no increase in housing rates for 2021-2022, and the board approved the removal of the $300 International Student Deposit Fee.

Supplemental COVID-19 Funding

The board received an update about federal COVID-19 funding to the university. A total of $13.5 million was made available to Tennessee Tech. $4.3 million has gone directly to student grants, which have been distributed to students already this semester. The remainder is available to the university to help cover lost revenues and reimbursement of expenses associated with its COVID-19 response.

In other business

  • The board heard from student leaders in engineering who are members of organizations that promote engineering to underrepresented groups: Alexis Harvey and Alyssa Elliot of the Society of Women Engineers, Triston Whitescarver and Jymon Scott of the National Society of Black Engineers and Kaitlyn Carroll of Women in Cybersecurity. They are organizing a virtual recruitment event to be proactive and promote the university from a student perspective.
  • University Advancement reported that more than $17 million has been raised in this current fiscal year. With four months remaining in the year, 2020-2021 is already the second highest annual fundraising amount in school history.
  • Academic Affairs reported on reaccreditation efforts as well as recent actions that came out of the university’s strategic plan, Tech Tomorrow, including the recently launched Center for Advancing Faculty Excellence and the reorganization of university institutional research offices and investment in them to allow for a more efficient and effective operation of collecting metrics that are used in decision making throughout the university.
  • The new residence hall, to be located near the current intersection of University Drive and Whitney Avenue, will be named the JJ Oakley Innovation Center and Residence Hall. This new facility was presented to the board at the September 2020 meeting. Construction is expected to begin in 2022, with completion in 2023.

Materials from today’s meeting and the webcast of the full board meeting are available at the board’s website, 

The board’s next meeting is June 24, 2021.

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