Meeting with UT Vice Chancellor Planned Concerning White Ave Homes, UT Lab Building Proposal

Sounds good.

1 PM on Friday the 13th.

My retired friend will be out of the country – but suggested I invite two historic preservation subject matter experts, who also happen to be UT alumni, instead. One has already expressed interest in attending to provide perspective on "the importance of historic preservation, heritage tourism, and its economic impact."

I agree a minimum number of people is more conducive to productive discussion.

I do not have expertise in historic preservation – I’m merely a fan of preserving and communicating history. The perspective I bring is that of a more recent grad. I also serve on the City of Knoxville Greenways Commission, stemming from my interest in green space preservation and public recreation areas.

I also have graduate training in quantitative spatial analysis, and my undergraduate training is in ecology (hence my interest in green space, the built environment, and the overall proportion of athletics facilities to academic facilities within the Institutional Zone).

I do understand the pressing need for classroom lab facilities for science students, since I was a UTK undergrad science major not too long ago. I can speak from experience that the White Avenue Biology Annex and Neyland Biology Annex did not foster community among biology undergrads. I concede there are merits to a 200,000 square foot classroom lab facility; however, I am not convinced that Cumberland and 13th is the right location to capitalize on those benefits. I am convinced, however, the proposed structure is harmful to the University.

I want to point out that nearly 2,500 individuals signed a petition at change.org, encouraging the University to change course on "Class Lab Building I" at Cumberland and 13th street as outlined in the campus master plan.

While 2,500 individuals can’t fit into Andy Holt Tower, let alone your office, my point is there is continued interest and opposition to the prospect of losing these homes within the Fort Sanders Historic District.

Although I agree dialogue with a small group is more productive for the purposes of our meetup, a key goal of mine will be to understand what mechanisms are in place for soliciting feedback from the broader population of current and future alumni concerning the master plan – and indeed whether protest concerning the master plan is futile- a feeling I alluded to in my earlier e-mail.

Perhaps I should be optimistic; certain variances from the master plan’s 2011 recommendations do seem to have been realized.

For example, in 2011, the "master plan recommendations" included the text that a "new academic building will be built on the Stokely Athletics site."

Just two years later, the Stokely Athletics site (plus the former Gibbs Hall site) is now slated to become a parking garage, student athlete dorm, and athletics training facility, adding to the overall footprint of parking and athletics facilities within the University’s overall "Institutional Zone."

It is encouraging to have an invitation to speak with you about the planned lab building and the master plan. Your openness and engagement is a welcome relief from widely held preconceptions about University leadership’s inability to listen and adapt to stakeholder concerns.

Thank you again for your time, and I’m looking forward to meeting with you in person.

Tanner

On Mon, Mar 2, 2015 at 11:29 AM, Cimino, Chris <cimino> wrote:

Let’s do 1pm. We can meet on my floor in our conference room (4th floor Andy Holt Tower). Don’t mind you inviting others but hopefully we can keep to a small group so as to allow for a productive dialogue.

Chris

From: Tanner Jessel [mailto:mountainsol]
Sent: Monday, March 2, 2015 10:20 AM
To: Cimino, Chris
Subject: Re: Alumni Complaints

Hi Chris,

Let me go ahead and lock in the opportunity to meet up on Friday, March 13.

Name your time and I’ll be there – I will say I prefer sometime between 11 am – 2 pm.

By the way I have no qualms about tailored messages centered on form responses; it’s common practice in communications and public relations.

Further, I appreciate that you have limited time and need to stay on message.

I don’t imagine your intent is to be flippant or arrogant, which is why I wanted to caution you about how your message is received:

Irrespective of your intent, my understanding is your training is in accounting and business administration, rather than appraisal of the historical significance of sites, landmarks, or architecture.

I hope you can see how a statement of objective truth offered without justification concerning the historical significance of Fort Sanders properties might be perceived as "arrogance."

The properties are within the Fort Sanders Historic District overlay. In my view, that contradicts your assessment that the properties are not historically significant.

The home which the University of Tennessee has settled to purchase for $1.1 million is highlighted as a structure of interest on KGIS.

Please see the attached map:

I will invite my friend to our proposed meet up.

I actually have more than one friend (many alumni) in Knoxville strongly opposed to the Master Plan’s outcome concerning these White Avenue Properties.

I’m hoping they’ll be able to attend as well to demonstrate the broad opposition among alumni to the outcome of the master plan in its current iteration.

Thanks,

Tanner

On Mon, Mar 2, 2015 at 9:29 AM, Cimino, Chris <cimino> wrote:
> Tanner,
>
>
>
> Let’s get together. It is true I have received several emails and while no
> two responses are the same, you are correct, I have, in the interest of
> time, copied some responses in order to make a response to all concerned.
> My intent is not to be flippant or arrogant. Emails are difficult to convey
> perspective. I don’t want to be misunderstood so let’s meet. And bring the
> friend along if you wish.
>
>
>
> Do you have some time to meet next week, perhaps Friday, March 13th?
>
>
>
> Chris
>
>
>
>
>
> From: Tanner Jessel [mailto:mountainsol]
> Sent: Monday, March 2, 2015 8:21 AM
> To: Cimino, Chris
> Subject: Re: Alumni Complaints
>
>
>
> Chris,
>
>
>
> I appreciate the time you have taken from your day to e-mail me back.
>
>
>
> Since I have read your largely copy-pasted comments already, I know you are
> getting a fair amount of feedback about this topic.
>
>
>
> I would add to your comments the Alumni Memorial Building’s restoration. It
> is a facility with rich history and restoration to be proud of.
>
>
>
> I would like to take you up on the offer of discussing the steps leading to
> the master plan in its current iteration.
>
>
>
> You’ve been a good sport in communicating with me and I respect that. It’s
> actually more than I expected from a University famous for the "Big Orange
> Screw."
>
>
>
> Out of my respect and appreciation for your engagement, I feel I should
> advise you that your comment "the truth is they have not been historic in
> the original sense for a long time" comes across as arrogant.
>
>
>
> I don’t mean to be harsh, but I think you should be aware of the effect of
> this comment, especially if you are sending it out as a standard response on
> this topic. In fact, I’m using a friend’s words reacting to your
> copy-pasted comments after reading them last week.
>
>
>
> My friend is a retired employee of the University with expertise in history.
> The reason it comes across to my friend as arrogant is because it is not
> apparent that you have the credentials to make a determination about the
> historic significance of a site or property.
>
>
>
> Also, your comment that the "homes are not historic" on account of their
> being butchered into apartments is unjustifiable. I live in a historic
> neighborhood in Knoxville. It’s on the National Register. Two historic
> homes split into apartments in my neighborhood were restored in 2007 by Knox
> Heritage.
>
>
>
> Take note of the transformation of multi-family homes back into single
> family homes in my neighborhood.
>
>
>
> http://www.cityofknoxville.org/press_releases/content/2006/1115.asp
>
>
>
> Finally the home you purchased for 1.1 million dollars looked pretty
> lovingly restored to me. The gray one could use some TLC, but I sure am
> envious of the beautiful porch and interior of the white one.
>
>
>
> I make a point to visit other Southern Universities when I travel. With
> each historic home destroyed, UT is losing its unique character.
>
>
>
> A stack of bricks looks the same in Starkville Mississippi, Athens Georgia,
> or Gainesville, Florida as it does in Knoxville, Tennessee. No amount of
> visual cues, branding or architectural detail can change that a brick is a
> brick.
>
>
>
> History, traditions, and values are what distinguish UT-Knoxville from other
> SEC schools.
>
>
>
> I’m afraid the master plan is eroding all three of those points of
> character.
>
>
>
> We need to preserve the character of the University. That includes the
> residential communities and undeniably historic properties in Fort Sanders.
>
>
>
> I’d like to talk with you either in person or on the phone to bring me up to
> speed on the decision making process that led to the master plan. Please
> let me know what might be convenient for you.
>
>
>
> Thanks,
>
>
>
> Tanner
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>
>

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About Tanner Jessel

I am a recent M.S. in Information Science graduate from the University of Tennessee School of Information Science. I was formerly a graduate research assistant funded by DataONE (Data Observation Network for Earth). Prior, I worked for four years as a content lead and biodiversity scientist with the U.S. Geological Survey's Biodiversity Informatics Program. Building on my work experience in biodiversity and environmental informatics, my work with DataONE focused on exploring the nature of scientific collaborations necessary for scientific inquiry. I also conducted research concerning user experience and usability, and assisted in development of member nodes with an emphasis on spatial data and infrastructure. I assisted with research designed to understand sociocultural issues within collaborative research communities. Through August 1, 2014, I was based at the Center for Information and Communication Studies at the University of Tennessee School of Information Science in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Posted on March 2, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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