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Seven Days

Wednesday, Nov. 29
Tennessee breaks new legal ground by becoming the first state to release pre-execution video footage. The tape was shot during the minutes leading up to the lethal-injection death of convicted murderer Robert Glen Coe in April. Coming soon to a Fox TV special near you...

Thursday, Nov. 30
From the Department of Whine Tasting: UT lawyer Ron Leadbetter files a lawsuit alleging he's been passed over for promotion because he's white and male. Among those he says are "less qualified" than him is a woman who graduated from UT Phi Beta Kappa and has been on the university's legal staff for more than 20 years.

Friday, Dec. 1
UT President J. Wade Gilley announces nine "Centers of Excellence" that he hopes will attract top-notch faculty, students and funding. Let's see—defense, offense, special teams, rebounding, shooting... what are the other four?
Anchor Bill Williams retires after 150 years heading up the WBIR newscast. Luminaries including Stonewall Jackson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Estes Kefauver make special appearances to reminisce and wish him well. Channel 10 announces Williams' replacement will be 12-year-old anchor prodigy Ted Hall.
Regal Cinema's debt managers block a $28 million interest payment, in a move that could force the theater chain into bankruptcy. In what a Regal spokesman calls a "completely unrelated" development, popcorn prices rise to $28 for a small, $32 for a medium, and $46 for a large.

Tuesday, Dec. 5
State officials announce they're changing Tennessee's "motor voter" form to make it easier for people to register to vote when they sign up for a driver's license. For example, you will no longer have to declare a party affiliation to "Ford," "Chevy," or "Independent."

Knoxville Found

What is this? Every week in "Knoxville Found," we'll print the photo of a local curiosity. If you're the first person to correctly identify this oddity, you'll win a special prize plucked from the desk of the editor (keep in mind that the editor hasn't cleaned his desk in five years). E-mail your guesses, or send 'em to "Knoxville Found" c/o Metro Pulse, 505 Market St., Suite 300, Knoxville, TN 37902.

Last Week's Photo:
OK, everybody knew this one. Everybody in South Knoxville, anyway, which is a lot of people. It's the sign for the Veterans Hall of Honor, housed in an old bank building on the corner of Chapman Highway and Moody Avenue. Due to the complexities of technology, we had to declare a tie this week (no election jokes, please). First winner is Mark Goodman, who wrote, "I look for this column every issue, really enjoy it. I don't know if that means I need to get more of a life or not." We don't know either, Mark, but just in case you do, you win a copy of Robert Young Pelton's popular travel book, The World's Most Dangerous Places. Send us a postcard from Chechnya! The other first winner is our drinking buddy, K2K moderator and Harley loyalist Steve Dupree (who also happens to be bigger than us—all of us put together—so we're not going to argue with his assertion that his entry came in on time to win). He wins a beer at MacLeod's or the new City Brew on Gay Street, whenever he can find a Metro Pulse staffer around to buy him one. Shouldn't be hard...

Meet Your City
A calendar of upcoming public meetings you should attend

7 P.M.
As usual, the City Council agenda won't be available until after press time.

1:30 P.M.
MPC is tentatively scheduled to consider (finally) an amendment to the city's zoning ordinance that would ban new billboards. Also on the MPC agenda: consideration of the East Knox County sector plan, a proposed guideline for development in that part of the county.


UT in Black and White

Racial tensions simmer on campus

Throughout the fall semester at the University of Tennessee, a series of racially-charged incidents—from graffiti at a residence hall to the student newspaper's controversial coverage of an alleged rape on campus in October—have quietly divided the university community. The school administration finally responded to the growing racial tensions with a public forum at the International House in November, where UT President Wade Gilley and recently-appointed Vice-President for Equity and Diversity Theotis Robinson offered vague commitments to sensitivity and educational diversity. But some members of UT's African-American community—1,540 students (6 percent of the student population of 25, 474), plus faculty and staff—don't think that's enough.

"It [the forum] was a bad time, the room was too small, and it was a rushed, poorly-planned effort at ameliorating people's fears and concerns," says George White, Jr., an instructor in African-American studies at UT. "It did more harm than good. It made it seem like it wasn't a legitimate concern...It left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths."

Robinson was unavailable for comment. The administration held the forum in response to a widely-reported student art project that hung nooses from a tree near Hodges Library. The nooses were meant to symbolize the strangulation of nature by humans. But they were placed in the tree overnight, with no identification, and the display shocked many students and faculty members.

The art project was only the latest in a chain of events. Early in the semester, students complained about the way UT's student newspaper, The Daily Beacon, identified black subjects—and only black subjects—by race in its daily crime log reports. Then, students complained that the paper was slow to report Ku Klux Klan-related graffiti at Hess Hall. Finally, in October, more than 100 students marched from the school's University Center to Circle Park to protest a story in the Beacon on an alleged campus rape.

In the story, the paper identified the suspect in the alleged attack as "a black male dressed in dark sweatpants and a dark shirt." The rape investigation by UT police was later closed without an arrest, after the victim reportedly changed her account of the attack and asked that no further action be taken. Several students and faculty members were upset at what they called a negative portrayal of African Americans in the paper.

"The thing that sparked it was the lack of coverage of African-American programs, students and staff, all the positive things," says A.D. Baxter, coordinator of the minority student affairs office at UT. "What fueled the fire was the alleged rape. Anything else we were doing was omitted from the front page."

Beacon editor Dorie Turner, who says her staff has done "a phenomenal job" of covering all campus organizations, defends the report. "We adhered to our policy," she says. "We described as much as we had, and we attributed it all to police reports and the victim. It was like any other crime story we would have written, and we did a follow-up when the investigation was closed."

Baxter says the Beacon staff has done a better job since meeting with students after the story ran. But White fears that the same lack of communication and inclusion will repeat itself in the future. "We've heard the same things before," he says. "I know a lot of people feel like our concerns don't really matter, and that the administration's not really concerned."

—Matthew T. Everett

Le Baton is French

Another kind of Oak Ridge superconductor comes to the fore

Serge Fournier is French in nearly every sense of the term. He retains a rich accent despite years of living in the United States; he sports a Gallic nose to which he calls attention in the first few breaths of an interview; and he holds a predilection for the music of French composers, to whom he pays a kind of genetic homage.

He is also the newest conductor of the Oak Ridge Symphony, a post he has considered a kind of plum since coming to East Tennessee five years ago to direct the Oak Ridge Chorus. Now he has both orchestra and chorus under his baton, and he is pleased.

"It's a lot of work, yes, but I enjoy it immensely," says Fournier, who took over the orchestra for the Oak Ridge Civic Music Association on Sept. 1. He says he particularly relishes having the opportunity to work with students of music, who make up about a third of the 75-member orchestra. The other two-thirds are an even mix of part-time professionals and amateur musicians. From that triage, of sorts, he is extracting a mixture of classical and pop-classical programs for the cultural stimulation and entertainment of Oak Ridgers and other music lovers from this region.

A ball of energy in his late 60s, Fournier seems secure in the glow of a career as a musician and conductor that brought him to this country, first as a protégé of Charles Munch, the renowned conductor of the Boston Symphony, and then as a student/assistant with the celebrated Leonard Bernstein, conductor of the New York Philharmonic. Along the way to Oak Ridge he spent 15 years as music director of the Toledo Symphony and a dozen more years as a roving guest conductor, appearing with such domestic orchestras as the Chicago and St. Louis Symphonies and the Philharmonic itself, and touring Europe and Asia.

Fournier is a flutist who isn't so pretentious as to call it a "flautist." He's a conductor of quite considerable experience and merit who doesn't insist on being referred to as "Maestro." In short, he's a genuine sort of guy, which may be what led him to Oak Ridge.

"I was intrigued by the announcement," he says of the day when he saw that Oak Ridge wanted a choral director, "and by the chorus—its composition—and by the town; I knew something about the town."

He said his visit for an interview left him "very impressed with the people—the scientists and so forth. They offered me the job right away, and I took it."

Though he is excited about taking over the symphony, the chorus is yet his love. "It's all volunteer," he says, "and 80 percent of the [ORCMA] board members are members of the chorus. If we didn't have the chorus, we wouldn't have this organization."

Consequently, he expects to work the chorus into symphony performances where appropriate, and vice versa. They just did Verdi's Requiem together last month, and he's looking forward to other joint performances. Three-Penny Opera, the Brecht-Weill standard, is in his mind's eye for the future, and by 2003, for the 200th anniversary of Berlioz' birth, he wants to have the symphony ready for Symphonie Fantastique, a challenging early Romantic work that Fournier has been intimate with since his days as a student.

As a youngster from Tours, in the Loire Valley, he was accepted at 15 to study at the Paris Conservatory of Music, where, he says, "I discovered the world of orchestra conducting." After graduation in 1957 he spent a year in Germany and a year in Italy, studying music and the languages of those music-rich societies.

Back in France, he met Munch on tour and was invited to Boston's Tanglewood Center in the summer of 1961. There he impressed Bernstein, who invited him to audition for an assistantship at the Philharmonic. He was one of three selected. Another of that threesome was, coincidentally, Zoltan Rozsnyai, the former conductor of the Knoxville Symphony. That experience led Fournier to the Toledo Symphony, where, among other distinctions, he was conductor at Van Cliburn's last concert before the acclaimed pianist's unexpected retirement.

When Fournier left Toledo in 1979, he sailed the Atlantic in his own boat, realizing a dream that had arisen when he took up sailing on Lake Erie. "It was quite an experience, a wonderful one, but I wouldn't want to do it again," he says. Then for another 15 years, he toured as a guest conductor before seeking and gaining his Oak Ridge post.

"I was looking for a job," he says. And now, he says, he doesn't want another one.

—Barry Henderson

Going Platinum

Platinum Lounge finally opens in Old City, sans beer permit

Rejected for a beer permit back in February, owners of the Platinum Lounge quietly plan to open this Friday with a show by the jazz band IP, featuring John Jackson.

The Jackson Avenue club will not sell beer, but expects to have liquor, says owner Baffin Harper Sr. The Knoxville Beer Board rejected the club's permit—by a vote of 5 to 4—for no apparent reason and with a seemingly sketchy legal basis last spring, prompting many to wonder whether the vote was tainted by racism. Harper, his son and daughter-in-law are African American. Barley's Taproom owner and neighbor Doug Beatty lobbied against the Harpers' permit, fearing that the club would play hardcore rap and attract a violent crowd.

The Council members who voted against the permit refused to say why, claiming that the matter was likely headed for a lawsuit. (Councilwoman Jean Teague now says she voted no because there were too many questions regarding it.)

However, there has been no lawsuit, and Harper says he'd like to put the "negative stuff" behind him. "I don't have any intention of pursuing it through legal counsel," Harper says. "I think the people voted against it based on a prejudged image of what we were about. But I don't have any hard feelings. Sometimes people are driven by circumstance."

The family has been slowly working on the club, while they also run a landscaping business, which includes some contract work for the city. The club will showcase a variety of music, including jazz, blues, rhythm and blues, and country & western, Harper says. "We want someplace nice where people can come and feel good about themselves," he says.

Eventually, Harper says he'll reapply for a beer permit.

He says hasn't talked with Beatty since the controversy early this year, but adds, "We've been over there a few times to order pizza."

—Joe Tarr

December 7, 2000 * Vol. 10, No. 49
© 2000 Metro Pulse