Tennessee’s Senate Education Committee unanimously approved an amendment on Wednesday that would eliminate state funding for the diversity office of the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, The Tennessean reports.
The amendment, proposed by Sen. Delores R. Gresham, a Republican, states that “only federal funds shall be expended to support the Office for Diversity and Inclusion” at the state’s flagship. But Ms. Gresham seemed to backpedal later, saying that she was unaware that the diversity office relied entirely on state support. She told the newspaper: “I would not completely defund the office. I think that would be extremely injurious.”
Anthony Haynes, the University of Tennessee system’s vice president for government relations and advocacy, said university officials “certainly understand the intent behind” Ms. Gresham’s amendment. “Hopefully,” he added, “we’ll get a chance to work this out before we pass the final budget bill, in April.”
The university’s diversity efforts have come under heightened legislative scrutiny after a couple of recent controversies. Last summer the university’s Pride Center — which supports students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer — was ridiculed by conservative media outlets for offering guidelines on using gender-neutral pronouns. Then in December the diversity office offered suggestions to “ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise,” further riling many lawmakers.
The Tennessee move bore similarities to a budget proposal last month in Missouri’s legislature. A lawmaker sought to cut funding for the University of Missouri at Columbia by the exact sum of the salaries of Melissa A. Click, a professor involved in an altercation with a student last fall during a campus protest, and her department chairman and her college’s dean. Ms. Click was subsequently fired.