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Former UT Board Member Sees Gender Diversity Need

KNOXVILLE Tenn. — A former University of Tennessee trustee says more women should be appointed to the board.

There are thousands more women than men enrolled on the four UT campuses, but only seven women sit on the 26-member board that oversees the operations of the state’s nameplate university. Three of them have only one-year terms as faculty and student representatives.

Anne Holt Blackburn, a Nashville television news anchor on WKRN-TV, cycled off the board when her six-year term expired in June. She said female members are more passionate about certain issues than men on the board are and the women think differently about issues.

“The more diverse we are, the better service we can give our state,” Blackburn said.

The Knoxville News Sentinel ( reported since taking office, Gov. Bill Haslam has maintained the status quo, appointing three men and one woman to replace the same number of each gender whose terms expired. He has not yet appointed Blackburn’s replacement.

“One of the challenges we have is making sure we represent the whole state both geographically, which we have to by statute, and with diversity in terms of gender and race and background of experience,” Haslam said before the Board of Trustees meeting on the Agriculture campus earlier this month.

“Running a university system the size of UT right now, it’s a complex institution, so we need to make sure we have the right background and the right insight,” Haslam said.

As governor, Haslam is a voting member of the UT Board of Trustees.

Merrill Schwartz, director of research at the Association of Governing Boards, said the percentage of women on governing boards of public universities nationwide more than doubled between 1977 and 1997, but has plateaued.

The UT board is slightly below the national average in female membership.

“If the goal is 50 percent, then that’s a long way to go,” Schwartz said.

Judith Glazer-Raymo, a faculty member at Columbia University who studies gender issues and higher education, said women assets to governing board because of they are often more collaborative, and they tend to see the issues that are important to faculty and students.

“Teamwork and collaboration are important characteristics of a governing board,” she said.

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