Photo by Andrew Wigdor / MTSU Sidelines
MTSU’s Board of Trustees held its quarterly meeting on Wednesday in the Miller Education Center on Bell Street and recommended three new master’s degree programs in speech-language pathology, biomedical sciences and public health.
Near the start of the meeting, the board took public comment from Scott and Michelle Huddleston. Michelle Huddleston addressed the board, stating that there was a need at MTSU for student athletes to have more mental health support and for there to be specific policies in place to locate, report and prevent player abuse. She cited recent incidents such as the firing of Georgia Tech women’s basketball coach MaChelle Joseph following player abuse allegations.
“(Player abuse) is a very widespread problem, and it is a real concern,” Huddleston said.
Huddleston said that MTSU’s general Code of Conduct is too vague and doesn’t “go deep enough for the situations that come up in coaching and athletics.”
She urged MTSU representatives to write policy that is specific to coaching and set standards that are enforceable in order to protect student athletes from mistreatment. She also stated that MTSU should adopt some of the NCAA Mental Health Best Practices, mentioning that the university currently has no services that are specifically aimed at maintaining the mental health of student athletes.
While MTSU has had no proven cases of player abuse in recent years, former Blue Raider football player Mike Williams accused several members of the coaching staff of player abuse and fixed drug tests when he played for the school from 2008 to 2011. An internal investigation into the situation concluded in October of 2018, with MTSU finding the allegations to be unfounded and the coaching staff guilty of no wrongdoing.
After Huddleston’s address, Stephen Smith, the board chairman, asked staff members to take “appropriate time” to review the suggestions.
Next in the meeting, the reports from the several board committees were heard. The first was the Academic Affairs, Student Life and Athletics Committee report, in which the new master’s degrees were recommended. The degrees, which were also requested by University Provost Mark Byrnes, must go before the Tennessee Higher Education Committee to be considered.
MTSU’s undergraduate degree in Speech-Language Pathology and Audiology has been offered for 50 years, but a master’s degree is required for licensure as a speech-language pathologist.
Byrnes also told the committee that a biomedical sciences master’s would greatly benefit students who are striving to enter medical, pharmacy, dental or other professional schools but do not yet have the credentials to be accepted.
Additionally, Byrnes informed the committee that the master’s of science is often designated as a academic degree, while the master of public health degree is considered to be an applied or professional degree.
The board also approved the elevation of the master of education in professional counseling to a specialist degree.
The Academic Affairs, Student Life and Athletics Committee also established a revised process for faculty members to refer students accused of academic misconduct, discuss possible sanctions for repeat offenders and establish a procedure for adjudication of academic misconduct for graduate students.
The board promulgated a rule that defined residency of students, with the purpose of determining if out-of-state tuition should be charged to certain students who enroll at MTSU. Trustee Pam Wright said that the policy was recently reviewed by the Division of Student Affairs, which found that it needed a number of updates to reflect current policies and changes to state laws. Wright clarified that the most significant changes relate to the benefits that student-veterans receive, as many of them are classified as in-state for tuition and fees.
The board also established expense limits for the spouse of the university president.
At a Dec. 11, 2018, Board of Trustees meeting, a five-year employment contract for President Sidney McPhee was approved. A provision within that agreement states, “The board recognizes that the spouse of a university president is often called upon to devote substantial time and energy to activities that benefit the university.”
Trustee Darrell Freeman stated that McPhee’s wife, Liz McPhee, is authorized to accept reimbursements from the university for expenses incurred through her participation in university events. The trustees recommended an annual cap of $5000 for spousal expenses, but the board chair may increase the cap based on needs in the future.
McPhee presented his presidential report as the meeting wrapped up. During his report, he stated that freshman applications are up 12 percent as of April 1, and those who are admitted from that pool of applicants are up by 16.8 percent.
“I’m going to first compliment our faculty, staff and our administrators, particularly Student Affairs, for the tremendous work they’ve done for the recruitment for the fall of 2019 class,” McPhee said.
McPhee said he anticipates the August numbers of new freshman enrollment to be up by 10 percent from the fall of 2018.
He attributed the increase in applicants to the university’s recent increases of value and scope for the MTSU Presidential Scholarship, which were announced in October 2018.
McPhee also noted that transfer student applications are up by 9.4 percent and transfer admits are up by by 12 percent as of April 1.
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