Dear Mrs. Davenport,
Welcome to The University of Tennessee, Knoxville!
We are wholeheartedly thrilled to have you here, and it appears you’re excited to be here with us. We know it seems like you are coming into a firestorm here at Tennessee due to the varied decisions that the University has made regarding the athletic department, diversity issues, and a multitude of other problems.
However, we as students are honored to represent our school and aid you in any way possible. So, here are some suggestions and some outreach to what may need to be done.
You are now a VFL:
Once you are here, you will be a Vol for Life. We will support you in all you do, but we will critique you when we think you can do better. We are a family here at UTK. A big, orange, sports-obsessed, sweet tea drinkin’, dysfunctional family. We are crazy about our sports. We are crazy about our politics. But, we will defend you to the point it seems as if we knew you personally. Make decisions as if you were a lifelong fan of the Vols, or if you had been working in one of the departments for decades. VFL is a proud label. Take it, own it, love it.
The Athletic Department:
Tennessee has been a firestorm for coaching searches, funding involvement, and discrepancy among fans and students over the last decade. Everyone has a unique opinion about coaching changes, department heads, and the allocation of money. However, the only plea I make to you is when it comes to making the change at Athletic Director. The obvious choices are David Blackburn and Phillip Fulmer. Both of these individuals are quote-unquote “Tennessee guys” who care about the state of the program prior to HAVING to care about it. We do not need a search firm. These are the only two choices that can make this department what it needs to be and take it where it deserves to go.
Discussion among students and faculty:
In your introductory conference, you mentioned how you are a proud supporter of diverse rights and inclusion when it comes to faculty and students. I am inclined to agree. All perspectives, sexualities, political affiliations, and backgrounds need to be included within discussions of controversial subjects, especially with the recent presidential election unnerving so many. With these constant reminders of how divided this country seems to be, it is evident that discussion is needed across all fronts.
That means, in essence, all perspectives need to be looked at, discussed, and accounted for. This includes Libertarian, Conservative, Populist, Liberal, etc., and none should be favored over the others. To allow a diverse setting for the University, more debates, events with different perspectives included, and less divisive rhetoric need to be implemented. I think you will be vital in this process. The more expansion and discussion that happens when it comes to different ideologies, the better.
Listen to the fans of the athletic program.
Listen to every student’s perspective.
Oh, and give your all for Tennessee, not to it.
Go Vols and good luck, Mrs. Davenport!