Tennessee relieves band director of duties

The Associated Press

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The University of Tennessee has relieved the director of bands of his duties and put him on paid administrative leave for the rest of the fall semester following the band's complaints regarding reduced travel and budget cuts.

The university announced Monday that Gary Sousa had been relieved as director of the Pride of the Southland Band due to insubordination, a misrepresentation of facts and a lack of confidence in his ability ''to work constructively and collaboratively with others going forward.'' The move is pending a full review.

Don Ryder, a 14-year Tennessee employee, will serve as interim director the rest of the season.

This decision comes five days after Tennessee's band issued a statement saying it was in a ''bitter battle'' with the school's athletic department regarding the band's travel and Neyland Stadium's game-day atmosphere.

''You will not earn my support through threats, petulance, public disruption or whining,'' Tennessee chancellor Jimmy Cheek said in a letter he wrote to Sousa on Monday. ''You are a professional band director and a tenured faculty member; please act like it.''

Sousa didn't immediately respond to a phone message.

Officials say Sousa promoted misleading claims to alumni and band members, encouraging them to speak out against the athletic department over limited playing time and budget cuts reducing the band's travel to away games.

Provost Susan Martin wrote Monday in a letter to Sousa that ''your actions to circumvent the normal methods of conflict resolution are shockingly insubordinate.''

Sousa, a tenured faculty member in the university's School of Music, has been the director of bands and a professor of music at Tennessee since 1997. University spokeswoman Karen Simsen said Sousa was on paid leave from all duties for the rest of the semester and that his other School of Music responsibilities would be reassigned. Simsen said Sousa earns $152,000 a year.

In the statement it released Wednesday, the band complained that the athletic department had ''slashed'' the band's travel budget. The band also said it had a reduced role in home football games because of all the commercials and pre-recorded music that played on the public address system. University officials said the band played ''significantly more'' at Tennessee's last game against Georgia than it had in the Volunteers' previous home games this season.

Tennessee's athletic department released its own statement later Wednesday stating the band is ''a much valued and integral part of the university'' and that the band's operating budget for the 2013-14 fiscal year was reduced by only 0.8 percent.

''I wholeheartedly support the right of students to get engaged and to advocate for a cause about which they are passionate,'' Cheek said in his letter to Sousa. ''But I am troubled that you may have allowed students to make inaccurate or misleading statements in the service of your personal conflicts with colleagues.''

Cheek met with Pride of the Southland Band members Monday afternoon to discuss the decision to place Sousa on leave. Martin, athletic director Dave Hart, football coach Butch Jones, School of Music director Jeff Pappas and College of Arts and Sciences dean Theresa Lee also attended the meeting.

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