More Than Bricks

I was disappointed in the article on the University of Tennessee's desire to become a world class state university, in the ranks of the universities of North Carolina, Virginia and California ["Travails, " by Jesse Fox Mayshark, Vol. 8, No. 10]. Your author failed totally to inform us why those universities are world class, attracting the best faculties and students, and finding themselves with sparkling reputations. Surely it will take more than new bricks and mortar and an extra $20,000 each year for the present faculty at UT to attain their reputations.

I thought back to the mid-80s when my youngest son and I toured several colleges in his search for a reasonably priced outstanding public institution where he could earn an engineering degree. He had a SAT score well above 1200 and would be admitted almost anywhere. We were living in Maryland at the time and visited the University of Maryland. We found a slovenly student body which was made up mostly of commuter students. At a football game the students were drunk, stoned and profane. Time to look elsewhere. At West Virginia University we found a disjointed campus. At the University of Tennessee found a football crazed campus, although the game we saw with Vanderbilt was a thriller. Go Vols!

On a long Thanksgiving weekend we visited Clemson University. The campus was literally locked down. Not a soul in sight. Not a building was open. Everyone was home for the holiday. At North Carolina State University things were much the same, except that the basketball team was practicing in the gym. We drove on to Georgia Tech in Atlanta. On the day after Thanksgiving we found the campus alive. Buildings were open. Students were everywhere carrying books and calculators. Most were Asians and Middle-Easterners, of course, as Georgia Tech is very much an international, eclectic institution, but a lot of them were just plain American kids who appeared to be serious about an education. I'll leave it to the reader to speculate on where my son enrolled and obtained his degree.

I'm sure that it will take more money to levitate UT, but I suspect that it will really need to create a model more in keeping with those other universities.

Frederick J. Miller

Park It

Jack Neely's column "Free Parking" [Vol. 8, No. 11] contained the following comment:

"It's fair to say that the great majority of cities with populations over 100,000 offer no free parking downtown. Even Sevierville has parking meters."

As a Sevierville native, I must object. Right after I became mayor in 1977, our council discovered that the city earned approximately $6,000.00 annually from the several parking meters positioned along Court Avenue and Bruce Street in our downtown. The police officer who collected and counted the change had an annual salary of about $10,000.00. The maintenance and repair of the meters, which often served as targets for inattentive drivers, cost several hundred dollars more per year. So, down came the meters and up went signs limiting the free parking to two hours.

In retrospect, I do not yet know whether the decision was good or bad for the city. But the mayor and the board received a lot of goodwill. It lasted about five terms for me. Moreover, some of the police officers made a little bit of extra money for the city by converting the old parking meters into attractive lamps. Finally, the free parking policy is still in place.

Unfortunately, the Sevierville downtown, not unlike the downtowns in other communities, has not been particularly prosperous during the last 25 years. If it were not for the county courthouse, the banks, insurance agents, and the lawyers, there would be little activity. Jury duty survives as a contributing industry. Still, there are no parking meters in Sevierville. So come visit.

Gary Wade, Judge
Tennessee Court of Criminal Appeals