Poll Workers Needed in Tennessee

Are you or do you know of someone who could be a Tennessee election hero?

On Aug. 4, 2022, Tennessee will have a State and Federal Primary and State and County General Election where voters will choose who will represent their communities on the state, local and national levels. But these elections are not possible without the thousands of Tennesseans who serve their communities as poll workers.

During early voting and on Election Day, poll workers help polling sites in their community run smoothly by conducting various tasks, including greeting voters, answering questions, explaining how to cast a ballot and counting votes.

Poll workers are paid to work during early voting, on Election Day and during any required training sessions. Any voter is eligible to apply, regardless of political affiliation.

Qualifications to Be a Tennessee Poll Worker:

Be at least 16 years old

Be a registered voter in the county if 18 or older

Be able to read and write in the English language

Not be a candidate or close relative of a candidate

Not be supervised by a county or municipal elected worker on the ballot

Government Employees Who Can Serve as Poll Workers:

All City, County and Metro employees (unless working directly under the supervision of an elected official who is on the ballot)

State of Tennessee employee

Federal employees – consult your Human Resources Department to ensure eligibility

This is your chance to be part of something bigger, to serve your community, your state and your country. This is your chance to be a Tennessee election hero. Apply now to serve as a poll worker at https://sos.tn.gov/govotetn

Sewanee Fourth of July Parade Entries


There are so many creative ways to strut your stuff down University Avenue, and they range from traditional and elaborate to simple, elegant, memorable, and bizarre.

Anything with wheels is good: flatbeds, cars, Wienermobiles, convertibles, golf carts, wagons, wheelbarrows, bikes, big wheels, scooters.

But on foot (or hooves) could be even better, especially if you’ve got a colorful banner (and/or signs, big hats, hotdog costumes, confetti, giant pinwheels, hotdogs glued onto your person) declaring who you are and what you do for this diverse community!

The parade committee will do all it can to help you find materials and get you organized on parade day so you can be the hottest, most diggetty dog of the day.

The parade begins at 2 p.m. on Monday, July 4; line-up begins at noon on Georgia Avenue, and judging begins at 1 p.m. Please enter on Mississippi Avenue from University Avenue, and our tent will be set up catty-cornered from Benedict Hall and the parking lot on the corner.

We will have trophies for best float, best decorated vehicle, and best horse, and blue ribbons for best decorated bicycle, best banner, best costume, and judge’s favorite.

If you’re interested in showing how your organization loves hotdogs and keeps alive the American spirit of opportunity and hope for all, please do the following:

Send a quick email to <jkgressl@sewanee.edu> today to let us know that your wheels are turning.

Fill out the parade entry form <https://docs.google.com/forms/...;.

Tweet at <https://twitter.com/wienermobi...; and ask them to be sure to attend.

For more information go to <http://www.sewanee4thofjuly.or...;.

MGTA Gets $450K Health Grant


The Mountain Goat Trail Alliance has received a three-year, $450,000 grant from the Project Diabetes program of the Tennessee Department of Health. The grant will be used for property acquisition and trail construction in Grundy County, and to promote children’s wellness activities.

“The MGTA is very gratified to receive our third Project Diabetes grant. We hope that with this funding we can connect the trail from Monteagle to Tracy City, while continuing to support programs that promote health and wellness for young people,” said Patrick Dean, executive director of the MGTA.

Project Diabetes funding was previously used for construction of the two-mile section of the trail from Tracy City Elementary School to Ingman Farm Road, and for two short segments between the DuBose Center and Cumberland Bible Chapel in Monteagle. The grants also have supported the Grundy Run Clubs in elementary schools, and the Tracy City Old Roundhouse Park.

“The Tennessee Department of Health is pleased to partner with the Mountain Goat Trail Alliance to open up access to physical activity in the most beautiful part of Tennessee. The trail will enhance the mental and physical health of all who spend time on it for many years to come,” said Joan Cook, director of the Project Diabetes program.

The Mountain Goat Trail is a rail-trail initiative to build a 40-mile walking and cycling path along the route of the historic Mountain Goat Railroad, from Cowan in Franklin County to Palmer in Grundy County. For more information go to www.mountaingoattrail.org

SUD: Energy, Money, and Employee Health Decisions


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the May 17 meeting, the Sewanee Utility District Board of Commissioners approved purchasing two variable speed drives (VFD’s) for the water treatment plant pumps which will enable regulating the speed of the motors, saving energy. The board also reviewed cost estimates for a bar screen for the wastewater pumping station to filter out disposable wipes and face masks which damage the pumps.

SUD manager Ben Beavers said the two VFDs, cost $22,500, would cut power consumption in half. Currently there is no way to regulate pump speed and the water plant regulates the flow by partially closing the discharge. The price from the vendor selected is slightly higher than another vendor, but the vendor could provide delivery in two weeks instead of five months. The vendor will install the VFDs and integrate them with SUD’s system. The VFDs will lower the power consumption at the water treatment plant, decrease the wear and tear of the main discharge valve, and decrease the overall system pressure. Beavers projected the units would pay for themselves in less than three years.

SUD intends to replace the bar screen at the main sewer pumping station to prevent disposable wipes and face masks from clogging and damaging pumps and creating a health hazard for employees tasked with repair. Beavers said the three options available differed in cost, method of operation, and the amount of debris removed. In the $125,000 unit, a rake scraped the screen. In the $180,000 unit, the screen moved across the rake. In the $225,000 unit, the water flowed through plates with holes which rotated to dump the debris. The most expensive unit removed far smaller debris and grit, according to Beavers. Tullahoma used that unit and was very satisfied. Beavers will visit a wastewater treatment plan in Georgia which uses the least expensive unit to investigate the system’s effectiveness. He suggested it might be wise to purchase two of the less expensive units and install a screen both at the main pumping station and before the pumps which draw water from the lagoon. “It would be worth a $100 if it saves a couple pumps,” Beavers said. Board President Charlie Smith asked which system best protected SUD employees from dealing with waste. “If they [bar screens] work like they should, they all would,” Beavers said.

Franklin County Schools’ Woes: Buses, BEP, Taxes


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

At the May 16 budget workshop, the Franklin County School Board struggled with a tangle of interrelated issues: bus owner/driver dissatisfaction with the amount of compensation; a very small increase in state Basic Education Program (BEP) revenue which helps fund raises; and uncertainty about property tax revenues. The board also considered discontinuing the Extended School Program.

“We’re making less money than we did 10 years ago,” said Jan Lappin, spokesperson for the more than 20 bus drivers who attended the meeting. “Gas isn’t the only thing that’s going up. If we’d been kept up to date and had decent raises, we wouldn’t be in this shape.”

Many bus drivers own more than one bus and hire drivers for some of their routes. Bus owner/drivers’ pay has three components: salary, a fixed rate per mile, and the number of seats on a bus. Owners also receive a fuel bonus when diesel exceeds $3.70 per gallon.

“You’ve been getting raises like teachers, but only on your salary,” said Director of Schools Stanley Bean, acknowledging the inequity.

“I just want to get back to where I was a few years ago,” said a bus owner who worked two jobs to keep his bus routes going. Another bus owner complained it was hard to find drivers because the bus owners couldn’t pay them enough.

The bus owners requested a $10,000 annual flat rate increase for each bus route. (There are 40 routes.) The bus owners also asked the district to lower the fuel-bonus trigger point to $2.70 per gallon.

Bean said the budget called for a 2.5 percent salary increase for bus owners, but he stressed being able to provide that depended on increased property tax revenues. BEP funding, which typically increases $500,000-$600,000 annually only went up $132,000. Teacher raises would be less than 2 percent without increased property tax revenues.

And property tax revenues may not increase, even though the recent property tax appraisals showed dramatically increased property values for many. “The county commission is getting phone calls to lower the tax rate,” Bean said. “My goal is to get them not to lower the tax rate. If they leave it where it is, it should generate a pretty good chunk of money.” Bean said the district would not know what the commission decided until July.

County Finance Director Andrea Smith pointed out it was an election year, and in the past the commission deferred acting on the tax rate question until after the election. But Smith also noted the salary increase for state employees was 5.9 percent, which could encourage the commission not to drop the tax rate back to a zero-revenue increase level. “We’d be giving away all the growth we had,” Smith said.

“I’m not working for a 2.5 percent salary increase,” said one bus owner, insisting he would find work somewhere else. “2.5 percent wouldn’t be bad if we got it on the whole deal.”

“We have to help them [bus owners],” said board member Chris Guess. “They can’t work for zero.” Guess suggested giving the bus owners raises from the fund balance, the amount the district holds in reserve, even though he normally opposed drawing on the fund balance to cover recurring expenses.

Board member Lance Williams said drawing $400,000 annually from the fund balance for bus-owner raises would deplete the reserve in five years.

Board member Sarah Liechty proposed a one-time bonus drawn from the fund balance.

Bean said combining routes and so decreasing the number of routes could help relieve the financial pressure on the district, but the bus owners did not respond to the suggestion.

Turning to ESP difficulties, Bean said it was getting harder each year to staff the program. He proposed discontinuing the ESP and using ESP reserves to start a childcare center at the Activity Center slated for construction at the Franklin County High School, with the possibility of branches in other locations. Board member Sarah Marhevsky pointed out many parents relied on after-school care and suggested a conversation with parents at the schools offering ESP.

The board will continue the budget discussion at a workshop on Monday, June 6.

Monteagle Residential Rezoning Questions: What, Where, Why


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

More than 60 people attended the May 17 Monteagle Planning Commission meeting. Following lengthy discussion and input from residents, the commission denied a request for rezoning to accommodate a residential development with 600-square-foot homes and approved rezoning to accommodate a vacation resort with 600-square-foot vacation homes and RV camping. The commission tabled a zoning amendment to allow apartments on C-2 commercial property.

A neighboring resident objecting to the proposed 48-acre residential development expressed concern the small homes would be used primarily as rentals by people visiting the Caverns and returning to Monteagle to “party.” Developer Tom Kale said the property had a 50-foot buffer, but the resident questioned how the renters would be kept within the boundary. Another resident asked if Monteagle had sufficient water and sewer capacity to accommodate more than 100 additional residences. City engineer Travis Wilson replied it was “not a simple yes or no” issue. Water pressure where each unit connected to the system and sewer pumping station capacity where each unit connected would need to be considered. Mayor Marilyn Campbell Rodman raised concerns about traffic congestion at the proposed Wren’s Nest Avenue entrance. She also asked if the gated development would provide its own security. Kale said plans did not call for providing security, but the homeowner’s association might later propose that. Kale preferred R-2 zoning to allow for smaller homes and lot sizes, so more units.

“I think it’s way too much for where it’s at, the neighborhood stress, road stress,” said commissioner Dorraine Parmley in seconding the motion to deny rezoning.

Richard Black, Janet Miller-Schmidt, Parmley, and Rodman voted in favor of the motion to deny. Peter Beasley, Ed Provost, and Chair Iva Michelle Russell opposed the motion. “I’m a property rights person,” Russell said.

Supporting the request to rezone 61.4 acres bordering Wells Street from I-1 industrial to R-4 residential, developer John Adams said the vacation resort would have a 100-foot buffer, full-time security, and create permanent jobs to maintain the proposed amenities which included a community center, playground, bathhouse and laundry, recreation center, and community gardens. The city would also realize revenue from Hotel-Motel Occupancy Tax, an estimated $350,000 annually according to J. D. Oliver, who owns the property.

The plan called for 44 RV sites, 10 tree houses, nine domes, and 104 400-square-foot tiny homes. Town planner Annya Shalun said Monteagle had not adopted building codes for 400-square-foot tiny homes which are allowed only in R-4. In response to a question about why the town would allow the vacation rental project and deny the residential development, Monteagle Alderman Nate Wilson pointed out the vacation rental was proposed for property zoned Industrial, not in a residential neighborhood.

Parmley made a motion to deny rezoning. Black seconded the motion. In discussion, Oliver asked what the city proposed for the 61.4 acres if not a vacation resort. Rodman stressed tiny homes had not been codified and asked if the developer would consider rezoning to R-3 which allowed RVs and 600-square-foot residences.

“If this is the way to get your approval,” Adams replied, but he insisted economics dictated his preferring 400 square foot rental units.

The commission unanimously approved rezoning from I-1 to R-3. The Monteagle Council must hold a public hearing and approve the rezoning on a first and second reading.

In discussion about a request to amend city ordinance to allow apartments in C-2 commercial, a resident asked why the city did not just rezone the property to residential. Russell said that could constitute spot zoning. Provost pointed out it would be spot zoning only if the rezoning was “detrimental” to neighboring landowners. Rodman said building inspector Earl Geary recommended that amendment to allow apartments in C-2 on a case-by-case basis. The commission tabled the request until Geary could be present for the discussion.

The commission also tabled a request for approval of a site plan for a convenience and retail store on West Main Street. Shalun said the site plan lacked stormwater, grading and drainage, and landscaping plans. Rodman asked developer Jignesh Patel to also consider including a sidewalk and lighting plan.

Craighill Retires: Confession of ‘Graphomaniac’


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

Messenger columnist Virginia Craighill retired from her University post as professor of English this spring. A quirk of fate brought this Sewanee grad, C’82, back to the University to teach 21 years ago. Contributions to the Tennessee Williams program, the student newspaper The Sewanee Purple, and her ready wit highlight her Sewanee career.

In the fall of 2000, Craighill had two young children and decided to take a semester off from teaching at Kennesaw State. She learned from a Sewanee classmate an English professor on emergency leave had burdened the University with a temporary vacancy. Craighill hired on as a visiting professor for the spring, and at the end of the semester, the University invited her to stay for another year.

“I had to negotiate with my husband,” Craighill said. For Chip Craighill, the family living in Sewanee meant a long commute to Atlanta, but he agreed. The Sept. 11, 2001, tragedy affirmed the decision. The family committed to staying in Sewanee. “We decided it would be a better place to raise the kids,” Craighill said.

Her first semester Craighill filled in where needed, teaching English 101, Studies in Fiction, and a Mediaeval Humanities course. When the professor on emergency leave did not return, Craighill continued as a visiting professor for several semesters. Ultimately, the University offered her full-professorship status as a teaching professor, and she began developing her own courses. “American Women Writers Writing about Women,” allowed her to draw on her favorite novels for material. The 100th anniversary of Tennessee Williams birth inspired her to develop a Tennessee Williams course. The college had received generous financial support from Williams’ estate. “No one was teaching Williams,” Craighill said. “How could we not teach him?” When asked to serve as Purple advisor, Craighill developed a desperately needed course in “American Literary Journalism,” a must for a college with a student newspaper.

Craighill’s ever-ready wit has served her well. When her college classmates crashed her Shakespeare class, chanting obnoxiously in the back of the room, Craighill called their bluff and announced, “The troupe of actors I hired to perform ‘A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream’ just arrived.” She insisted they come forward and, using the students’ texts as a guide, perform Act Five. “It’s supposed to be poorly acted.” Craighill laughed recounting the incident. “They did a great job of acting poorly.”

A humorous in-house “Sewanee Diary” Craighill penned circulated among faculty members. She stopped the practice realizing, “This is fire-able material.” But the diary resurfaced in slightly different format as the Messenger “Angel with an Attitude” column. “It’s great to have an alter ego,” Craighill said. “You never run out of material here.”

Craighill’s father’s struggle with Alzheimer’s and recent death, in part, prompted her decision to leave teaching. “I want to be able to spend time with my family without restraint and guilt,” she acknowledged. She also pointed to a change in students since the pandemic. One student said to her, “Everything feels optional.” “Students seem disconnected,” Craighill said. She has hope the phenomenon will pass and stressed her current students were “wonderful.”

Craighill’s first six weeks of retirement will take her to Maine. After that she plans to hike the Camino de Santiago in Spain. Craighill will start the journey with Sewanee colleague Deb McGrath. The final four weeks, Craighill, who does not speak Spanish, will be on her own, giving her much time for meditation and reflection.

Then, when Craighill returns, she plans to pursue her lifelong passion. She has family essays she wants to edit and envisions a chapbook or full-length poetry collection of her many poems, one recently published in Nelle, an all-women’s journal, and another forthcoming in The Colorado Review. “I have a lot of ideas” for writing projects, Craighill insisted. “I can’t wait to get back to being a graphomaniac.” Craighill will stay in Sewanee. Watch the Messenger for future “Angel” columns.

Franklin County Schools: Discrimination and Discipline


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

The Franklin County School Board grappled with two weighty issues at the May 9 meeting: the districts failure to fully satisfy the 1964 federal mandate calling for desegregation of the schools, and changing the discipline policy from a prescribed list of punishments to discipline based on individual assessment of students’ behavior. The board also approved the 2022-2023 calendar changing the abbreviated days for the coming year.

Marcus Allgood, grandson of Emma Hill who was instrumental in filing the 1964 desegregation lawsuit, addressed the board asking for an update on the districts intention to seek Unitary status, the standard signifying the district has eliminated the vestiges of prior segregation to the greatest extent practicable. Allgood said in response to the district’s most recent attempt to seek Unitary status in 2002, the federal courts found the district “had achieved ‘unitary status’ in transportation, extracurricular activities, school construction, student transfer, and faculty desegregation, [but] the district still needed to work on student assignment, staff desegregation, and quality of education.” In support of Allgood, Charliss Burnett, 1982 Franklin County High School graduate, said, “Nothing has changed in 60 something years.” Burnett pointed to her daughter being wrongly cited for misbehavior when her daughter was not in school that day. Juliette Taylor, Emma Hill’s daughter and a student during the first years of desegregation, said she had spoken at Vanderbilt University and numerous public venues. “I’m tired of talking about it. When does it end? I don’t want to die knowing my mother’s work was in vain.”

Director of Schools Stanley Bean said he had consulted with the district’s attorney Chuck Cagle about the Unitary status issue. Bean quoted from Cagle’s written reply which questioned whether there was “an active case that could be reopened.” Cagle also questioned “how applying for Unitary status would change, let alone improve, the operation of the school system.” Bean stressed there would be costs involved, according to Cagle.

Bean further pointed out in response to the 2021 Office of Civil Rights citation, the district had committed to addressing all complaints on a case-by-case basis. Some remedial actions proposed by the district have not yet been ruled on by the OCR.

Allgood argued applying for Unitary status “would cause you to see were you are in your policies, is there discrimination? If there is it [will] highlight those areas that need to be corrected.”

Board member Sarah Marhevsky asked what the district would need to do to seek Unitary status. Bean said he would research the process and present it to the board for discussion next month.

North Middle School Principal Holly Eslick and Huntland School Principal Ken Bishop talked about their schools’ positive experiences with Trauma Informed educational practices. Bishop cited research showing the brain of a two-year-old child made a million neural connections per second. Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) disrupt the process.

“There is a reason behind every behavior,” Bishop stressed. “A person who loses neural connections early honestly doesn’t know how to behave, because they never learned it.” He gave the example of a verbally abusive student who confided his father punished him by not allowing him to bathe. Bishop arranged for the student to shower at the school.

“When a child has stress in their life, they can’t come in and learn, because their brain is in a constant state of stress,” Eslick insisted. “Kids ask for love in the most unloving ways.”

Following up on the discussion, board member Sarah Liechty proposed a committee form to revise the Code of Conduct “to better recognize Trauma Informed Discipline practices.” Liechty said a trauma-informed approach would consist of a Behavior Team “to assess the cause of behavior and make recommendations to change the behavior,” rather than applying a code of discipline based on a “lock-step process that treats every child the same.” Liechty pointed out Trauma Informed discipline was codified by law as best practices in 2019. “What we’re doing now doesn’t respect the law.”

Taking up the 2022-2023 calendar, the board voted to change one of the three abbreviated days, ending at 9:30 a.m., to the day before Christmas vacation, rather than the first day of school. The other two abbreviated days will remain the same, Homecoming and the last day of instruction.

The board will have a budget workshop at 6 p.m., Monday, May 16.

University Housing Crisis: Why, Who, Can You Help?


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

When the University began working out housing details for the coming academic year, they ran up against a hard truth. With 62 new requests for rental housing from faculty and staff, and only 28 units available due to departures, they faced a shortfall of 34 rental units. Where to find 34 rental housing units forced challenging and painful decisions.

The rental housing policy gives priority to those who will be joining the University and, for continuing housing assignments, gives priority to those who continue to be employed or enrolled full-time. The policy limits rental housing residence to three years. However, the University has made exceptions. “If we don’t have as many people coming in as are leaving, we let some people stay beyond the three years,” said acting Vice Chancellor Nancy Berner. With the high demand for rental housing in the coming year, the University needed to invoke the three-year regulation, no easy task. Which renters, exceeding the three-year limit, would be asked to vacate? “The policy is clear on who would get access to rental housing, but it is not at all clear on who would have to exit,” said acting Provost Scott Wilson.

A working group led by Wilson devised a scoring system to rank renters who had rented three or more years: -1 point for each year past three years; +1 for tenure-track and tenured faculty; +1 for fulltime employees; +1 for having a salary less than $60,000; +1 for having a salary less than $30,000. Wilson said giving points for being an immigrant or person of color were considered, but those criteria violated the Fair Housing Act and the University Non-Discrimination Policy. The University decided to try to accommodate 13 renters with +2 scores; 17 renters have received a 60-day notice and asked to vacate by June 30.

“This has been really hard,” Wilson said, acknowledging the heart-wrenching circumstance impacting many of those required to leave. The University will give departing renters $1,500 for moving expenses. Renters’ annual contracts show how many years they have left in rental housing. A cautionary email went out in March to all renters who had rented three years or more, and four of those renters recently purchased homes or found other rental accommodations. But, Wilson stressed, including those asked to vacate, there is still a shortfall of 30 units.

Sewanee’s long acknowledged housing shortage reached the tipping point due to a confluence of several circumstances. The two-year tenure track hiring freeze meant hiring more visiting professors who could not be expected to purchase homes; the sharp increase in housing prices has made it difficult for renters to find affordable homes to purchase; and the number of seminarians seeking rental housing increased by five.

Looking to relief, Sewanee Village Ventures, Inc., a C-Corp subsidiary of the University, expects to begin construction of five to seven moderately priced single-family homes in 2022. To help alleviate the trauma of the immediate situation, a working group began meeting May 11 to investigate potential housing solutions. The group hopes to identify rental units within the University’s control, such as a theme house and dormitory apartments, as well as rental options outside the University’s control, including domain residences with apartments, second homeowners who would consider renting, and Monteagle Assembly homeowners with rental space available.

“There is so much more demand than we had supply,” Wilson said. “This has been very challenging and remains a challenge. If people in the community can respond by making available houses or rental units that could help meet this need, that would be great.”

Five Honorary Degrees to be Presented on May 14


The University Baccalaureate service for the College Class of 2020 will be held Saturday, May 14, in All Saints’ Chapel at 10 a.m.

Five honorary degrees will be presented during the service, to Susan Binkley, the founder and president of Blue Monarch; Emory Shaw Campbell, president of Gullah Heritage Consulting Service; renowned ragtime/boogie-woogie pianist Bob Milne, founder and director of the Frankenmuth Ragtime Festival; Jack Murrah, former president of the Lyndhurst Foundation; and poet, novelist, biographer, screenwriter, and critic Jay Parini, D.E. Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing at Middlebury College. More information about each recipient is below.

Jay Parini will deliver the Baccalaureate address. Parini is a poet, novelist, biographer, screenwriter, and critic. His six books of poetry include “New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015” and “The Art of Subtraction.” He has written eight novels, including “Benjamin’s Crossing,” “The Apprentice Lover,” and “The Last Station,” which was made into an Academy Award-nominated film starring Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer. He has written biographies of John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, William Faulkner, Jesus, and Gore Vidal. His nonfiction works include “The Art of Teaching,” “Why Poetry Matters,” “Promised Land: Thirteen Books that Changed America,” “The Way of Jesus,” and, most recently, a memoir titled “Borges and Me: An Encounter.” Parini adapted his Gore Vidal biography with director Michael Hoffman into a feature film starring Kevin Spacey and Michael Stuhlbarg. He taught at Dartmouth College from 1975 to 1982, and has taught since 1982 at Middlebury College, where he is the D.E. Axinn Professor of English and Creative Writing.

Susan Binkley is the founder and president of Blue Monarch, a nonprofit, long-term residential recovery program for women and their children who are dealing with addiction, domestic violence, and economic hardship. A Tennessee native, Binkley earned a bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Tennessee, after which she directed the Leu Gallery at Belmont College, while her own artwork was represented by Cumberland Gallery in Nashville. In addition to Blue Monarch, Binkley has developed a variety of businesses, including Xanadu Farm, a horse-boarding operation and vacation cottage; the Blue Chair, a bakery and café in Sewanee; and Out of the Blue Granola, which is distributed throughout the Southeast. Since 2003, Blue Monarch has created a unique and successful program that focuses on recovery for mothers and their children, with a strong emphasis on sober parenting and the reunification of mother and child. Through the program, hundreds of children have been reunited with healthier mothers who had previously lost custody.

Emory Shaw Campbell was born in 1941 on Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. He is an example of a native son who left his early environment and later returned not only as a leader but also as a visionary and proponent of constructive programs and policies. After earning an M.A. at Tufts University in Boston, he returned to South Carolina to work at the Comprehensive Health Agency for Beaufort and Jasper counties. For almost 10 years, he traveled throughout the Sea Islands, addressing environmental issues that affect the daily lives of the islands’ people. His goal was to promote methods of preserving and enhancing the unique and rich Gullah heritage in the face of rapid development on the islands. In 1980, Campbell became the executive director of the Penn Center on St. Helena Island. He vigorously embarked on a program to revive the center’s historical significance and to preserve the culture of the Sea Islands. He is currently president of Gullah Heritage Consulting Service, conducting institutes on Gullah cultural heritage and related issues through lectures, short courses, and the Gullah Heritage Trail Tours on Hilton Head Island.

Bob Milne is considered to be the best ragtime/boogie-woogie pianist in the world. He was filmed and documented for future generations in 2004 during three days of interviews at the Library of Congress, and was declared a national treasure. Milne is an active musical ambassador for the U.S. State Department and has performed numerous times in Japan, including in the Okinawan Islands and Hokkaido. He has also performed in this capacity for members of the Swiss Parliament at the U.S. embassy in Berne. Playing in concert halls since 1991, Milne performs worldwide, averaging around 250 performances per year. He is highly sought after for both his virtuosic piano playing and his easygoing, modest presentations.

Jack Murrah is the former president of the Lyndhurst Foundation, a private foundation that provides support for environmental conservation, public school reform, downtown and inner-city revitalization, and cultural activities, primarily in Chattanooga and the surrounding region. After graduating from public high school in Birmingham, Ala., Murrah attended Vanderbilt University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1971. He later earned a master’s degree in English from Middlebury College. Between 1970 and 1978, he taught high school at the Alabama Boys’ Reform School, the Chamberlain-Hunt Military Academy in Mississippi, and Baylor School in Chattanooga. In 1978, he joined the staff of the Lyndhurst Foundation, where he served as a program officer, executive director, and, from 1989 to 2010, as president. For more than 30 years, Murrah led Chattanooga and the state of Tennessee in forceful and innovative directions in art and culture, influencing the way Tennesseans live in cities, how children are educated, and how artists are supported. He was instrumental in the establishment of the South Cumberland Community Fund, a philanthropic organization serving Grundy, Marion, and Franklin counties.

There will be a book and CD signing with Emory Shaw Campbell, Bob Milne and Jay Parini at 4–4:45 p.m., Friday, May 13, at McGriff Alumni House. Come enjoy coffee and conversation with three of the honorary degree candidates.

LiveWell on the Mountain


Folks at Home and Arcadia at Sewanee have joined in sponsoring a major new initiative to enable older adults to age in place here. The new program, LiveWell on the Mountain, is being offered to healthy independent-living residents in the Sewanee and Monteagle area through Blakeford Senior Life, the Nashville based not-for-profit parent of the Blakeford at Green Hills continuing care retirement community founded in 1996. It will be an extension of the successful LiveWell By Blakeford program in the Nashville area.

LiveWell on the Mountain was introduced to guests at a reception held on April 28 at the Sewanee Inn where George Elliott, Chair of Arcadia at Sewanee, Craig Stubblebine, President of Folks at Home, and David Shipps, the University’s Vice President of Economic Development and Community Relations, each welcomed this new service to the Mountain. While there are no legal ties between these entities and LiveWell, Arcadia at Sewanee and Folks at Home played leading roles in establishing the connection with LiveWell.

Brian Barnes, President and CEO of Blakeford Senior Life, and Jane Kelley, Executive Director of LiveWell By Blakeford, presented information on the company and, specifically, the features and benefits of the LiveWell’s aging in place program. Historically, the choice for healthy older adults who want a plan in place has been either to relocate to a community where life care is an option, or to stay at home and depend on the provisions of a long-term care insurance plan. LiveWell offers a third option that includes a Folks at Home membership and, among other services, personalized care coordination, wellness programs, transportation to essential services, home care assistance, and, when necessary, priority access to the Blakeford residential communities.

LiveWell will be offering additional information sessions on May 24 in Sewanee. If you are interested in attending and/or learning more about LiveWell on the Mountain, please contact Jane Kelley at <jane.kelley@blakeford> or (615) 665-0694.

Reappraisal Program Nears Completion


In the next few days, property owners in Franklin County will receive a change notice in the mail titled “Assessment Change Notice,” said Bruce Spencer, Assessor of Property. This is not a tax bill. It reflects the market value of a property as determined by the Department of Property Assessment with the State of Tennessee during the county-wide revaluation program.

Property taxes are determined by applying the local tax rate to the assessment for each property. The tax rate is determined by each city and county governing body based of its budgetary needs.

The assessor of property and his staff will be available to discuss the new appraisals with the property owners who have questions or who disagree with their new values. If you plan to visit the assessor’s office, we ask that you please call ahead for an appointment although this is not mandatory for the informal hearings. Property owners still in disagreement with the new appraisal after the meeting with the assessor’s office may then appeal to the County Board of Equalization.

The County Board of Equalization will meet beginning on June l through June 14, 2022 to allow property owners who disagree with the new appraisal an opportunity to offer evidence supporting what they believe the actual value of their property to be. Property owners still dissatisfied with their appraisal after meeting with the County Board of Equalization may then appeal to the State Board of Equalization.

State law requires that, in the year of reappraisal, each taxing jurisdiction must establish a tax rate referred to as the “Certified Tax Rate,” which will generate the same total revenue as the previous year thereby preventing governments from increasing revenues due to a reappraisal. The local governing body may, however, pass a tax increase by adopting a tax rate higher than the certified rate, but a public hearing must be held with the advertised intent of exceeding the certified rate in order to do so.

Property owners with agricultural, forest or open space land may be eligible for relief under what is commonly called the Greenbelt Law. This law allows certain land to be taxed based on its present us instead of market value. The “Use Value” appraisal will usually be less than the “Market Value” appraisal. Property owners should contact the county assessor of property for assistance in filling out the “Greenbelt” application.

State law provides for property tax relief to certain low-income homeowners age 65 or over, certain permanently and totally disabled homeowners and certain disabled veterans. Property owners should contact the County Trustee for details on the Property Tax Relief Programs.

University Hiring Freeze Crisis: Thaw in Sight


by Leslie Lytle, Messenger Staff Writer

On April 8, the University faculty passed a resolution in a near unanimous vote calling for immediate action to address the “dire need” created by 27 open tenure track positions resulting from the hiring freeze that began in March 2020. Of the faculty attending the meeting, 96 voted in favor of the resolution, 4 abstained, and none were opposed. By month’s end, the number of open tenure track positions had risen to 29. The freeze “has gutted course offerings and led to insufficient tenure-line faculty to carefully and consistently engage with students,” the resolution argued, with students struggling to find advisors and shutout of required courses. Now, though, hope has pushed its way to center stage.

“The hiring freeze is thawing,” said associate professor of history Nick Roberts.

According to acting Vice-Chancellor Nancy Berner and acting Provost Scott Wilson, in response to the resolution, the University has authorized hiring 15 tenure track faculty over the next two years, nine in the academic year 2022-2023.

The hiring freeze was put in place due to uncertainty about future enrollment, Berner and Wilson explained. Roberts said initially the reason “made sense” given the pandemic. But the administration also voiced concerns about the anticipated “demographic cliff” which projected a drastically reduced number of students attending college by 2026.

Berner said the hiring freeze remained in effect as part of the strategic planning process to evaluate “curricular renewal and innovation.” In December 2021, department chairs identified acute needs in the departments of psychology, mathematics, and politics. The administrations authorized hiring several tenure track professors, but some searches failed to yield results. Watching the precipitous decline in tenured faculty, professors worried entire programs and departments would be cut, said Jennifer Mathews, chair of the theater department. “It’s like we’re trying to go into 2026 in a weak position,” Mathews insisted. Meanwhile, “The students we have in 2022 are suffering.” In the psychology department where the tenured faculty has decreased by more than half, tenured faculty must advise two dozen or more students. Only tenured faculty have the experience needed to serve as advisors and to serve on committees, Berner acknowledged, roles visiting professors cannot fill.

University records show from the spring of 2020 to the spring of 2022, visiting professors increased from 27 to 38 and full-time faculty decreased from 146 to 136. (Note: full-time professors include teaching professors hired on five-year contracts.)

Some visiting asssistant professors (VAPs) have served on the faculty almost five years, on contracts typically renewed annually, said one VAP who spoke anonymously to the Messenger. He moonlights at a second job to make ends meet and regrets not having more time for his students. Set to interview for a tenure track position when the hiring freeze went into effect, now his life is on hold. He has applied for other positions and may leave academia. He takes hope in recently being offered a three-year VAP contract. Mathews said VAPs hire in at just $45,000 annually. She pointed to a VAP who recently took a tenured position at another college with a far higher pay scale.

Easing the faculty’s concerns about elimination of departments and programs, Wilson, who heads up the strategic planning process, said, the University intended to “avoid eliminating programs with tenure track positions…a goal [is] to have 80 percent of the faculty in academic departments be tenure-track faculty or teaching professors.” Increasing the number of teaching professors was not part of “the overall plan,” Berner noted. Two of the nine positions to be filled this year are in the department of psychology and two are in the department of mathematics, departments with multiple open tenure track lines.

“Hopefully things will be more reassuring once we have these positions filled,” Roberts observed. “The town is the college, and the college is the town.”

Echoing the sentiment of everyone interviewed for this story, Berner said, “We all have the same objective, supporting our students, faculty, and employees. We’re all pulling together in the same direction.”

SSMF Season Tickets Now Available


Season tickets are now available for the historic 65th season of the Sewanee Summer Music Festival, which will run June 18 through July 17. From amazing symphonic concerts to intimate chamber music performances, the 65th season is sure to be one of the most memorable in years. This season, the concert programs take audiences on a journey, telling our stories through time — exploring the depth and richness of stories connected to symphonic music, opera, and chamber music.

This season subscription allows you full access to all in-person concerts during the 2022 Festival. The season pass is $150. Individual events are $20. Go to https://www.tickettailor.com/e...

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