Gov. Haslam calls UTK decision to reject outsourcing 'political'

Nov 13, 2017

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE)  --  Gov. Bill Haslam says he’s disappointed the state’s public universities have largely rejected his efforts to outsource campus maintenance.

Haslam made the comment this past week during a meeting of the University Of Tennessee Board Of Trustees, which he chairs.  Most schools in the UT system announced during the session that they would keep facilities management in-house.

UT Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport
Credit UTK

In her remarks, UT Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport cited several reasons for rejecting outsourcing. She says contractors did not offer significant savings. She also worried loss of full-time campus positions would negatively impact the community.

In addition, Davenport argued that, because UT is heavily into research, any company contracted with would need the expertise to safely handle everything from nuclear waste to biohazard material. She concluded it was best to leave those tasks in the hands of full time staff.

“The complexity of the work takes highly specialized people who, faculty would tell you, have a long relationship. They work side-by-side with our faculty in maintaining these spaces.”

Several UT Board members expressed disappointment, chiding Davenport and her colleagues for what they called “political” decisions. Davenport was heavily lobbied by UT faculty and staff unions to resist outsourcing.

Trustee Brad Lampley told Davenport he worries the decision to reject privatization will come back to haunt UT, when the university next goes to the capitol asking state lawmakers for more funding.

“My concern is, unless we find a way look at other areas where we can save a similar amount of money, we could have problems down the road.”

Earlier this year, Gov. Haslam’s effort to outsource maintenance at state parks also lost traction when his administration failed to receive even a single bid from contractors on its request for services.