June 23, 2024

Chancellors Cheek, Hall sit with Commission for LGBT People

Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Rickey Hall met with the Commission for LGBT People on Monday, Feb. 1 in Hodges Library Room 605.

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Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Rickey Hall met with the Commission for LGBT People on Monday, Feb. 1 in Hodges Library Room 605.

Cheek discussed recent bills that he and Hall cited as ones of concern for the University of Tennessee. One bill Cheek cited was SB 1902, the amendment that would cut funds for diversity and multicultural programs in half.

Cheek also discussed an amendment that would restructure the Board of Trustees for the university system, completely eliminating the current board. New members would be appointed by the governor, the House and the Senate.

Two students and two faculty would also be appointed should the amendment be passed.

Cheek said there is a proposal to create a committee to examine diversity at UT, a move he considers helpful. He also said he has been in talks with the Legislature regarding the bills and what is right for UT.

“Diversity is a key, central component of the university,” Cheek said.

The meeting was opened to questions from those in attendance. Members of the audience were handed copies of the agenda, which had suggested questions for the chancellors on the back of the sheet.

When asked about the Legislature’s relationship with the university regarding the diversity programs, Cheek cited other universities in the country that are dealing with their state lawmakers, including the University of North Carolina and the University of Wisconsin.

“If you look at what’s going on nationwide, we are not unique,” Cheek said.

“A lot of it is cultural,” Hall said about Legislature’s reaction to diversity efforts. “A lot of it is due to a lack of education.”

Hall said he believes businesses should be speaking up for diversity at UT as well.

“Are they having these conversations?” Hall asked.

The Pride Center was also a topic of discussion during the meeting. The Pride Center is located in Melrose Hall, a building that is scheduled for demolition. According the center’s director, Donna Braquet, the center has no budget or full-time staff, but is constantly working.

“When you look at what other centers are doing, we are doing far more with far less,” Braquet said.

Hall responded that the challenge for the center’s location will be finding a new space that is “highly trafficked” like the current Melrose space is.

Several members of the audience also brought the topic of gender-neutral bathrooms on campus and the change from labeling them as “Gender-Inclusive” to “Family-style” on the Interactive Maps website. Currently, there are less than 20 “Family-style” bathrooms on campus.

Kristen Godfrey, the graduate assistant of the Pride Center, said she believed the name of the bathrooms is important to students who need them to feel safe.

“When we take away this language, we are erasing these identities,” Godfrey said.  

The next Commission for LGBT People meeting will be March 7 at noon, in Hodges Room 605. More information about the commission can be found online.

Edited by Ben Webb

Featured image by Thomas Delgado 

News editor, Courtney Anderson, has been telling stories for as long as she can remember. From scribbling short stories on the back of pamphlets to excelling in Advanced Placement English courses in high school, Anderson has always been determined to make a career out of writing. Anderson joined TNJN as a freshman and instantly fell in love with online news. She hopes to become an editor for a major online news source one day.