‘We have a vision’ | UT announces future of campus development

Officials from the University of Tennessee revealed their roadmap for campus development.
Officials from the University of Tennessee revealed their roadmap for campus development.
Published: Jan. 25, 2023 at 9:35 PM EST
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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - On Wednesday, officials with the University of Tennessee held a meeting to address their vision for the future of campus. This is the first time since 2011, the campus has engaged in a full scale master plan.

There were many issues addressed in the design but some of the main issues included parking, housing, and infrastructure. The plan will align the university’s buildings and infrastructure with the university’s strategic plan.

UT is getting help from international planning firm, Ayers Saint Gross (ASG) that is partnering with native Knoxville firm McCarty Holspace McCarty (MHM), with historic work to be done on campus. The meeting was led by UT’s Chancellor Donde Plowman, who said this plan is something they look at every 10 years but really needed to be sooner.

“What they saw today was a vision of the future physical presence of this campus and it really matches perfectly with our vision how we see ourselves and the university we want to be,” Plowman said.

A parking garage and three new dorms were in the beginning stages of being built. This is very necessary considering the housing crisis UT students have been dealing with. In the meeting, officials addressed how much more it would cost to build these things now, than it did back in the day. According to Plowman, they built three or four dorms in clumps and half the dorms were around 50 years old.

“It will help take the pressure off huge demand which were thrilled about and not enough housing for students we also have to build up our faculty but in some ways that’s easier and quicker than building the dorms,” Plowman said.

Last year UT had a record-breaking enrollment with 6,785 freshman students, which is 800 more than the year before. Their retention rate is also up 3% over the past three years. This means more students are coming back to campus after a year. These are good and bad problems to have for the University.

“There’s definitely a huge freshman class and we can tell the affects of it,” UT freshman Sadie Rel said.

School officials said the university never had sufficient space for the academic programs, it simply makes do with what it has. However, faculty and students are having to work around these issues and are seeing it impact them in the classrooms.

“It’s getting a little too crowded for campus. Parking is a big issue and then obviously it spills into classrooms as well. So, you know it’s hard to find a seat if you’re not there 10 to 15 minutes early and even then you may not even be in the right room for your class,” UT senior Jackson Higley said.

The university decided to limit how many students they took this fall. Rel was put on a waitlist for many of her core classes needed to take as a freshman. She never made it in the classes she needed, so UT randomly placed her in an honors college class. She is not an honors college student.

“I’m just hoping I can keep my head above water and my GPA won’t be affected by having to take difficult classes that I necessarily didn’t want to take in the first place,” said Rel.

The plan was guided by five key principles: connectivity, growth, interdisciplinary and research, sustainability and natural systems, and Volunteer experience. The proposals outlined in the plan serve as a catalyst for additional future discussions about the possibilities for the campus.

UT officials said they were focused on every student having a high-quality experience while still committed to growth. The next stages of the plan were funding and design.