When Gerald Mattis, a process server tried to deliver a subpoena to Watkins College of Art curator, he would have been threatened with a weapon.

Mattis arrived at the home of Susan Commissioner Basham 7 p.m. Tuesday night and was greeted at the door by a man he believed to be her husband. The man pulled a pistol from his waist, he held out his hand to one side of his body and said, "I'm doing this tonight out of my property now and get on the street." According to an affidavit filed Mattis.

Brandishing a weapon is a serious class C felony in Tennessee.

Mattis was delivering a summons to appear Basham in court today in a hearing in response to a complaint filed by two students and adjunct professor. The complaint asks for a temporary injunction to stop the merger of Watkins and the nearby University of Belmont until the court can review the agreement.

Tensions were already running high between the Watkins board, which approved the merger in January, Save and Watkins, a group of students, staff and students rallying to keep Watkins independent. Mattis police report only fuels the fire. Save Watkins is now calling on Tennessee Governor Bill Lee to remove Basham. A university spokesman did not respond to a request for comment on the incident.

J. (Joseph) Kline, president of Watkins, announced in January that boards Watkins and Belmont had voted "unanimously and enthusiastically" to combine in August this year. The merger would save the Watkins cash to the poor rich lands close its doors permanently in their struggle to increase enrollment and maintain a healthy endowment.

Since then, the agreement has been plagued by criticism.

Kline was removed from office overseeing the merger and Cary Beth Miller, interim vice president for academic affairs, was appointed to coordinate the transition. Belmont, a Christian university, said he did not consider hiring non-Christian teachers Watkins and then walked back that position.

events outside the control of the institutions have made progress in the treatment even more difficult. Nashville, Tenn., Was hit by a tornado that broke the power on campus for a week earlier this month, and the new outbreak of coronavirus is sending students home from Saturday until early April shortly .

"These students have been through hell, and are exhausted," said Mark Schlicher, student and assistant professor in the film Watkins.

Now, the board is quietly chugging forward with the merger, while the university Watkins Save implores consider other options.

Part of the deal is to sell the Watkins campus and donate that money to Belmont to create a scholarship fund for future gifted students. The campus is estimated to be worth between $ 15 million and $ 20 million

.. "It is a fusion of any common understanding of the word - it's a gift," said Schlicher

the University maintains that he considered other offers before announcing the Belmont agreement, although a spokesman declined to say what universities university spoke. Neighbor Tennessee State University and Fisk University were not addressed, according to a letter by State Senator Brenda Gilmore.

Recently, Somera road Inc., a commercial real estate company based in New York, offered to purchase the Watkins campus for $ 17 million

Somera could rent property Watkins recovery free for one year, and then collect rents future to 30 percent below market price -. $ 17.50 per square foot, compared to other Somera property down the street, you pay $ 26 per square foot. At the close the deal, Watkins would receive a guarantee fund $ 1 million "to cover all short-term financial needs," according to a press release Save Watkins.

"Our offer is effectively deliver $ 17 million, which can use the operating deficits, which include rental, staffing, fundraising," said Joe Lemense, vice president of development of Somera. "Everything to stimulate growth in enrollment so they can reach equilibrium."

Lemense said the board was reviewing the offer, but did not say when the board would respond. On Wednesday, a university spokeswoman said the board had "received many proposals to be examined in due time."

Meanwhile, Save Watkins is taking its efforts to court. The group filed the lawsuit last week in Davidson County Chancery Court requesting a temporary restraining order and a temporary injunction that would prohibit the merger to move forward until the court can review.

complaint Save Watkins asked whether the board Watkins can "unilaterally extinguish the Watkins public trust and transfer ownership associated with a private religious institution" and "if the dissolution of the College Watkins violates the clear terms of Samuel 1880 Watkins will and the law of the State associated "among other things. The group is scheduled to appear in court today.

For Watkins position in relation to the state is highly unusual for a private institution. It was established by an act of the legislature of Tennessee using a public trust created "by the last will and testament of Samuel Watkins." board "management is at all times be investigated by the authority of the state, under the protection of the affairs of the institute are placed."

The university is audited according to government auditing standards rarely, if ever, used for private institutions, according to Anne Ogilby, a partner at Ropes & Gray LLC.

In this way, Watkins is treated as a public institution. However, in 1974 the university became a nonprofit corporation Tennessee through the presentation of a corporate charter, according to a university spokeswoman.

The sit-general and governor attorney Tennessee aboard Watkins as members without voting rights, so "they will presumably do whatever is necessary under the law," Ogilby said. "It's not as if the board is trying to get this through under the cover of darkness without any interaction with the state."

The Office of the Attorney General said it received notification of the complaint Save Watkins and are working on an answer. A spokesman declined to comment on whether the university AG is required to obtain legislative approval for the merger.

"We have not received formal notification of a merger between the Art Institute Watkins and the University of Belmont," a spokesman for the attorney general said. Such notification is required under the code of Tennessee with. < / p>

Watkins board has been tight-lipped about its previous process and the completion of the merger. Gilmore, the state senator whose Watkins district is housed in, wrote twice to the board asking the board to suspend the merger until that the community has the opportunity to learn more about the deal.

"As an educational institution which was established by the legislature, and, by the law of the state, is supervised by commissioners appointed by the governor, is worrisome I was not informed or consulted before an agreement was announced between the Council and the Board of Belmont on January 28, "Gilmore wrote.

a university spokesman said the board is p Lanning to meet with Gilmore next week.

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