Tennessee House Passes Bill To Defund College Diversity Department
Blake Neff on April 19, 2016 by The Daily Caller News Foundation
The University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion could be on its way out, as the state’s House of Representatives has approved a bill that would gut its funding.
The bill, sponsored by state Rep. Micah Van Huss, was inspired by various escapades at UT that appalled lawmakers. In August 2015, the department published materials online encouraging students and staff to use gender-neutral pronouns, and in December it made an online post warning students and staff not to hold Christmas parties (or holiday parties that came too close to Christmas parties). While both posts were taken down, lawmakers said their creation showed that the department was fundamentally hostile to the values of Tennessee residents.
Now, lawmakers may put their money where their mouth is, as the new law would explicitly ban having any state funds go towards the financing of a diversity or inclusion office at UT. Of the $400,000 in funding that currently finances the department, $100,000 will be used to finance decals for police cars that read “In God We Trust,” while another $336,000 will go to fund scholarships targeted at minority groups. (RELATED: Tennessee Lawmakers Could Divert Diversity Funds To ‘In God We Trust’ Stickers)
The bill easily passed on a 66-22 vote that reflected the overwhelming Republican majority in the chamber, though a handful of Republicans joined Democrats in opposing the bill. Some opponents defended the office’s value in promoting diversity, while others said it was simply improper to micromanage the university’s budget in such a way.
‘Let’s let the university trustees run the University of Tennessee,” Democrat Joe Armstrong told The Tennessean. “Let’s make sure that we’re hiring qualified administrators to run the university, and let’s let our students be critical thinkers.”
To protest the bill’s passage, several hundred UT students took part in a campus protest Tuesday afternoon, with some of them deliberately walking out of class to do so.
#MassClassExodus happening now @UTKnoxville #UTDiversityMatters pic.twitter.com/7Q3SPIZB6E
— Drewbie Doobie Doo (@WelchDrew) April 19, 2016
To become law, the bill will still have to pass the Tennessee Senate and be approved by Gov. Bill Haslam. The Senate is currently considering its own version of the bill, which would use the all the lost diversity funding to fund minority scholarships.
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