KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Tennessee's former student affairs judicial director says she was harassed and pressured by university administrators before getting fired for refusing to cooperate with an investigation into whether she had inappropriate relationships with student-athletes.
Jenny Wright, who was fired in May, discussed the circumstances surrounding her dismissal this week on her personal website.
"I withstood a personal nightmare during my last year at the university," Wright wrote. "I experienced a great deal of criticism, harassment and pressure from university administrators and from individuals in the athletic department, and I realized that the University of Tennessee is a culture not exempt from the weight of powerful individuals seeking to exploit and control situations for personal reasons."
Her statement was first reported by the Knoxville News-Sentinel.
Wright said during the 2012 fall semester she met with an official from the Office of Equity and Diversity to discuss the "pressures, intimidations and even threats directed toward me regarding judicial decisions she had made involving student-athletes."
Tennessee vice chancellor Margie Nichols said the school wouldn't comment on Wright's statement while the investigation into whether she had improper relations with student-athletes is going on.
"We're still waiting on the report on the investigation," Nichols said. "As soon as it's complete, we'll release that."
The university has retained Knoxville lawyer Beecher Bartlett to handle the investigation. Bartlett says he hopes to have it done "in the next few weeks."
Reached by phone, Wright said she put the website up and made a statement so that potential employers could get her side of the story regarding the circumstances surrounding her departure from Tennessee.
"I think it's important that they see an accurate portrayal of myself," Wright said. "That's the only reason I did this. I didn't do it to garner any attention whatsoever."
In the phone interview, Wright declined to elaborate on the pressure and threats she had mentioned on her website.
Wright was fired after failing to appear at a meeting to discuss the allegations against her. Wright wrote in her statement that she was accused of retaliating against a student-athlete and initiating the disciplinary process to suspend him from the university.
She submitted a letter of resignation rather than participating in the investigation, but Tennessee instead fired Wright. In a letter obtained through a public records request, Tennessee provost and senior vice chancellor Susan Martin wrote that she was firing Wright for "failure to comply with the directives of authorized university officials to cooperate with a university investigation."
Wright said in her statement that she "vehemently denied" the allegations when former vice chancellor for student life Tim Rogers brought the allegations to her in April. Wright said she faced an "increasingly hostile and stressful work environment, discrimination, significant professional and personal turmoil, as well as physical and emotional distress" afterward.