Memphis Colleges Mostly Silent On Privatization Contract


University of Memphis President David M. Rudd
  • University of Memphis President David M. Rudd
Following the premature signing of an outsourcing deal between the state of Tennessee and commercial real estate management company Jones Lang La Salle (JLL), higher education institutions in Memphis are remaining mostly silent on whether or not they are considering opting in to the grounds and facility maintenance management contract.

Numbers provided by the union representing facility public university workers, United Campus Workers say 765 campus employees in Memphis stand to be affected the by the controversial contract that would affect Memphis' three largest higher education institutions — The University of Memphis, University of Tennessee Health Science Center, and Southwest Tennessee Community College.

So far, UTHSC is the only Memphis university to weigh in on the outsourcing contract through David Miller, the entire University of Tennessee system's chief financial officer.

“Each campus within the University of Tennessee will meet with the proposed contractor and receive information to help determine whether contracted services would be in the best interest of the campus," said Miller.

According to Miller, leadership from each campus will present their decision to the UT's Board of Trustee's at a later point this year.

U of M president David Rudd has declined to comment on the matter, and Southwest has not returned a request for comment.

Though public universities and community colleges are most heavily impacted by the outsourcing contract in terms of numbers, the scope of the contract includes all grounds and maintenance workers in nearly every state-run institution.

Since smaller districts stand to be disproportionately impacted by the privatization of state parks and prisons, bipartisan pushback against the contract has been on the rise.

Initially 41 of the the General Assembly's 132 members signed a letter presented to Terry Cowles, the director of the Office of Customer Focused Government, calling for a halt in the process until more information could be presented about the financial impact of the contract.

That number jumped to 75 within a week.

Central to the opposition to the contract is hazy language that contains potential loopholes about the protection of state workers' jobs, wages, and benefits — though Haslam's administration has insisted repeatedly that all of those elements will be protected.

Before taking office, Haslam — the second wealthiest politician after President Donald Trump, valued at $2.6 billion according to Forbes — had a reportedly significant investment in JLL, which he placed in a blind trust upon taking office.

The value of Haslam's investment in JLL remains unknown as, like the sitting president, Haslam refused to release his tax returns before and since taking office in 2011.

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