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Bill Diverting Funds from U. of Tenn. Diversity Office Becomes Law

A bill that diverts funds from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s diversity office into minority engineering scholarships will become law without Gov. Bill Haslam’s signature, The Tennessean reported on Friday.

The bill will reallocate about $436,000 from the diversity office to the scholarship fund in the coming academic year.

The State Senate’s Education Committee approved legislation in March to eliminate funding for the university’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion. The office has been targeted by Tennessee lawmakers since December 2015, when a posting on its website suggested that students not use faith-based references at campus holiday parties. Conservative legislators called on university administrators to resign.

A committee of the Tennessee House of Representatives began an investigation in February into how public universities spend money for diversity. Republican lawmakers pushed for the flagship to concentrate on multicultural issues and avoid matters of gender identity, religion, and sexual orientation.

The reallocation of funds came as no surprise to many university officials, who knew they would face a challenging legislative session after the controversies.

The flagship’s vice chancellor for diversity and inclusion, Rickey L. Hall, has stepped down from his post, taking a job on Thursday at the University of Washington.

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