2016 on the University of Tennessee Campus was one filled with changes in policy, appearance and leadership.
A new year is often synonymous with new beginnings and a fresh start. That was not the case at UT.
The Spring 2016 Semester began with protests, made up of people trying to finish a fight that began the year before.
Students and some officials argued against a bill at the State Legislature aimed to strip $5 Million dollars that fund diversity projects from the University. Effectively defunding UT's Diversity Center.
“It feels like an attack on me, an attack on my friends, and an attack on all marginalized people on campus,” said Ashley Campbell, a student at UT in Knoxville.
The diversity office angered many Republican lawmakers for supporting an annual Sex Week on campus and for its support of gender-neutral pronouns and "inclusive holiday celebrations."
Many students on campus opposed the cuts in funding.
The bill successfully moved through the legislature and became law in May without Gov. Bill Haslam's signature.
Haslam released a statement explaining his decision:
"I am letting HB 2248 become law without my signature. This bill received considerable debate and discussion during legislative session, and the final form of HB 2248 was revised so that its primary effect is to redirect administrative funding for the Office for Diversity and Inclusion for one year into scholarships for minority engineering students. Although I do not like the precedent of redirecting funds within a higher education institution’s budget, I find the ultimate outcome of the legislation less objectionable and am therefore letting it become law without my endorsement."
Title IX Lawsuit
A federal lawsuit filed in February alleged that UT has created a culture that permits bad behavior by male athletes and protects them when they commit crimes, including the alleged rapes of several young women in the last 3 years.
The original lawsuit had six unidentified female plaintiffs. That number later grew to eight. All the plaintiffs allege they remain emotionally scarred by their time at UT.
Students protested outside the offices of UT Leadership and outside UT Board of Trustee's meetings.
Shortly after the suit was filed, all 16 head coaches from the university's athletic programs gathered to defend the campus culture.
"There are great things going on on this campus," said Men's Basketball Coach Rick Barnes.
"It's not who we are," said Football Coach Butch Jones.
This show of unity and strength upset victims rights advocates.
"It did not help someone who is in that trauma and crisis go 'Oh, well, now I feel very secure in reporting,'" said Amy Dilworth, executive director of the Family Justice Center.
UT Chancellor Doctor Jimmy Cheek praised the settlement, but said no university will be able to prevent every incident.
He said in a statement: "Like many institutions we are not perfect, but our goal is to continue to be the best we can be at creating awareness, educating, and preventing discrimination and abuse in any form."
A sexual assault survivor spoke out about the settlement, saying "no amount of money" is enough.
In the summer months, both UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Athletic Director Dave Hart announced they would be leaving their positions.
"It's been the greatest job I've ever had," said Cheek.
Cheek says he plans to stay at the university but move to a teaching position.
“I need to spend more time with myself, my family and grandchildren,” Cheek said.
Cheek said his daughter brought it to his attention in February. He said his role as a faculty member won’t be as “time-consuming.”
Cheek's announcement launched a months-long search for a new Chancellor.
Three candidates were brought to Knoxville. In November, Beverly Davenport was nominated and later approved by the UT Board of Trustees.
Hart announced his retirement in August.
At a news conference Thursday, Hart said “it was time” for his retirement.
“It became pretty apparent because of where our program is, because the university is under transitional leadership,” Hart said.
Hart called his career an "incredible journey," and said he hoped people within the athletic department felt that they were treated with respect.
In late September, the University said it planned to cut ties with Dave Hart before his retirement announcement. His contract would not have been renewed.
“While the Jane Doe, Title IX lawsuit was pending, we agreed that any action with respect to Dave Hart’s contract and employment should be delayed because of our significant concern about the impact on the lawsuit and settlement discussions,” UT President Joe DiPietro said in an Aug. 10 email to a number of top school leaders, including Cheek, who made the initial decision not to extend the contract.
In addition to leadership changes, the appearance of campus is changing as well.
Several projects totaling hundreds of millions of dollars are underway on campus as construction finishes up on new facilities for students and faculty.
Overall, the university is spending nearly $1.5 billion on construction and design of all the new projects currently planned for the campus. On top of that, it's spending another $100 million on renovations of existing buildings.
A little off campus, hundreds of students were without a place to call home because of construction delays at the Standard Apartment Complex.
In July, The Standard at Knoxville -- a new off-campus student housing facility located near Cumberland Avenue -- told tenants it faced unanticipated delays in construction and would not be ready by the original Aug. 13 move-in date.
Students were originally told, residents of the 672-unit building would have to wait until mid-to-late September to move in.
Come December, and the building was still not complete.
Notable losses and birthdays
Pat Head Summitt
On June 28, 2016, the world said goodbye to UT Lady Vols legend, Alzheimer's advocate and the winningest coach of all time, Pat Head Summitt.
She died early that morning at the age of 64, according to a statement from her son, Tyler.
Tyler Summitt released the following statement: “It is with tremendous sadness that I announce the passing of my mother, Patricia Sue Head Summitt. She died peacefully this morning at Sherrill Hill Senior Living in Knoxville surrounded by those who loved her most."
On March 7, legendary UT quarterback Peyton Manning announced his retirement from professional football.
Emotions ran high for the two-time Super Bowl champion, who said he’s retiring after 18 seasons in the NFL.
“There’s just something about 18 years,” Manning said. “Eighteen is a good number, and today I retire from pro football.”
Manning thanked a number of people, including the University of Tennessee and its fans.
“It was one of the smartest decisions I’ve ever made,” Manning said of his decision to forego the 1997 NFL Draft and return to UT for his senior year. “I cherished my time in Knoxville, especially my senior year. I want Vol fans everywhere to know the unique role you’ve played in my life.”
Manning played at the University of Tennessee from 1994-1997.
The faces of Pat Summitt and Peyton Manning were both featured on UT's iconic 'Rock' in 2016.
The Rock is nearly always painted. Often, it reflects significant moments happening on campus.
This year, it got a special moment of its own. The Rock celebrated its 50th birthday in November.
Many of these elaborate paintings were done by UT student, Payton Miller.