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Trustees OK Plan to Shift Audiology and Speech Pathology to Health Science Center

October 24, 2008

KNOXVILLE -- The University of Tennessee Board of Trustees on Thursday approved a plan that will allow the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology and its clinics to continue operations. The program will remain in Knoxville and be administered by the UT Health Science Center College of Allied Health Sciences.

The plan calls for the clinics to remain open and the graduate programs to continue.

The shift will take effect by July 1, 2009, pending approval by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.

"This is a good solution for everyone," UT Knoxville Interim Chancellor Jan Simek said. "It's more appropriate for the audiology and speech pathology program and its clinical programs to be a part of the College of Allied Health Sciences at UT Health Science Center. This plan offers an increased potential for graduate work and increased opportunities to provide much-needed services to communities around the state."

Currently enrolled undergraduates and those who declare their majors in audiology and speech pathology by August 2010 will be able to complete their degrees.

After 2010, all courses will continue to be offered through UT Knoxville's College of Education, Health and Human Services, and students will be able to earn a degree in special education with an emphasis on communication sciences and disorders. Students also can take these courses as prerequisites to graduate work or as components of other majors.

Ilsa Schwarz, head of the audiology and speech pathology department, said she's pleased with the plan.

"As part of the Health Science Center, we will be aligned with other academic departments that also have clinical training requirements. There will be an immediate understanding of what we do and some of the issues that surround departments like ours," she said. "We anticipate opportunities for us to expand the clinical and academic faculty and increase the number of graduate students we serve."

The Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology was one of three programs recommended for phased closure by the Knoxville campus administration in response to an $11 million budget cut for 2008-2009.

At Simek's request, the Board of Trustees in June agreed to table the issue to allow the campus and system more time to study the issue and address concerns raised by faculty, patients and the public.

A group representing the president, chancellor, the College of Arts and Sciences, the audiology and speech pathology department, the UT Health Science Center and others proposed the new arrangement after studying alternatives that would allow the program to continue to meet the educational and clinical needs of Tennesseans.

For Knoxville, cost savings will be realized because the department will no longer be part of the College of Arts and Sciences.

To help Memphis with front-end costs, UT will use proceeds received under the 1999 UT Hospital Lease and Transfer Agreement with University Health Systems Inc. The board approved a resolution today to use that source of funds.

Memphis officials say they plan to aggressively seek alternative sources of revenue to support the department's needs.

Ken Brown, executive vice chancellor and chief of staff at the UT Health Science Center, said the program will be a great asset for UTHSC.

"The addition of the speech and audiology program to the College of Allied Health Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center serves not only to strengthen the college as we recruit for a new dean but also serves to facilitate our statewide presence in the delivery of clinical care, community service, research and education," he said.

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Contacts:

Karen Collins, UT media relations, (865) 974-5186, karen.collins@tennessee.edu