University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro announced Monday that he'll step down after seven years in charge, a move he's been planning for a while but still comes sooner than some had anticipated.
DiPietro says he'll end his daily responsibilities Nov. 21, and retire completely next February. DiPietro said he's been clear with state leaders about his intentions and felt that the time had come to step aside.
“Since the beginning of this year, I’ve spoken with Gov. Haslam and our former vice chairman ... regarding my desire to step down this year, toward the end of the year,” said DiPietro. “With the transition of the board, I decided to wait until the new board was in place and up and running before I announced.”
Throughout his tenure, DiPietro faced challenges well-known among higher education leaders: dwindling revenue streams, lower overall enrollment and upswings in campus activism. However, the president says he has left the institution in a state of financial progress and overall stability.
But, there has been increasing disagreement between DiPietro and conservative lawmakers, who regularly criticized the Knoxville campus for funding sexual awareness programing. State leaders also defunded the school’s diversity office in 2016 and conflicted with the president over implementing free speech policies.
DiPietro says his departure is timely, given the election of a new governor and legislators to the state’s general assembly, alongside the appointment of a new university board.
“For me the timing makes sense for the new UT president to step forward and lead the university through these changes,” DiPietro said.
Still, he notes he plans on routinely meeting with his successor for a smooth transition of institution leadership. UT Board Chairman John Compton said in a prepared statement that trustees “will convene soon to discuss next steps in selecting a new leader.”