Does the University of Tennessee have a double standard in how it disciplines students who are not athletes?
That question is at the heart of the case of a 60-year-old student whose masters degree is being held up, putting her dreams of a career on hold. It's all because of something that happened more than a year ago while she was on vacation in another state.
During graduation ceremonies back in May, UT officials called Suzanne Glen's name and appeared to confer the masters in social work degree for which she had worked so hard.
But, for school officials, that moment was all for show.
"It was an awful experience," Glen told NewsChannel 5 Investigates. "It was awful, and it should have been joyful. It should have been a time to say, 'Wow, I really made it. I worked really hard -- and I did it, by God.' But I didn't feel that way that day."
Glen wasn't a star athlete or a student that any UT alum would have known.
At age 50, she had decided to go to college, ultimately graduating from Middle Tennessee State University -- a proud member of the psychology honor society.
"I think UT is being very unfair," said Dr. Carol Ann Baily, who was one of Suzanne's professors at MTSU.
Baily said Glen's whole life has been a struggle. "She had a medical problem when she was in her 20s that could have been debilitating. She went through two divorces. She lost a business in one of those divorces. She was on disability."
In 2008, Suzanne began working on her masters at UT, thinking she'd go on to get her doctorate.
Then, in July 2009, she was arrested for DUI while on a camping trip in Alabama.
But, by September, prosecutors had reduced the charge to reckless driving.
Still, two months later, UT officials called her to Knoxville to tell her that she was being kicked out of school.
"I was all by myself in this office with somebody who's telling me that I've been accused of something that's so bad that I'm going to be suspended indefinitely," Glen remembered. She added that she "never, never saw that coming."
After all, this is the university whose star center Brian Williams pleaded guilty to drug possession earlier this year -- and was not kicked out.
In 2008, punter Britton Colquitt did not get the boot either, even after his fifth alcohol-related arrest
Nor did quarterback Jim Bob Cooter when he was arrested for DUI back in '06.
"I think that if you look at the penalties that were handed down to students who were athletes they were much less than an indefinite suspension," Baily said.
"And I don't know what an indefinite suspension really means -- because it's indefinite."
UT officials would not provide anyone to sit down and answer our questions about Glen's case. But when NewsChannel 5 Investigates caught up with the UT president at the state Capitol, he told me he doesn't think there is a problem.
Is there one standard for athletes and another for ordinary students?
"Not at all," insisted Dr. Jan Simek, the interim UT president.
So why would athletes be treated differently from Ms. Glen?
"I don't know that they are," he answered, "because I don't know the details of this situation."
Suzanne Glen said, "I made a decision at 50. Now, I'm 60. And now everything is just being taken away. So it feels like the bottom has dropped out."
Glen opted to continue with her studies while she appealed -- even though UT officials warned her she might not get the credits for her final semester nor her degree.
"What I was thinking," Glen said, "is that there is such a thing as due process and presumption of innocence, and I was relying on those things to be true."
Now, six months after her graduation ceremony, Suzanne still doesn't have her degree -- and her life is on hold -- for what the courts have said was just a case of reckless driving.
"If I was such a poor representative of the university, why allow the dean to place a hood over my head in public?" she asked.
An administrative law judge heard the case and upheld UT's indefinite suspension of Glen, who has now appealed to the chancellor of the Knoxville campus.
A spokesperson for the chancellor said he has instructed university officials not to discuss Suzanne's case.
As to how the university got involved in an incident that occurred in Alabama, it appears that Glen had a falling out with another student who was on this camping trip. That student, apparently seeking retribution, filed the complaint with the university.
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