May 21, 2024

Senate panel votes to remove state funding for UT diversity

The Senate Education Committee voted to remove all state funding from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.

//Photo by Ryan McGill

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The state Senate Education Committee voted to remove the state funding for the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion on Wednesday, March 2.

The amendment, proposed by Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, would require that the Office of Diversity and Inclusion would only receive federal funding. The bill was passed unanimously.

This amendment comes after months of controversy surrounding the office of Diversity and Inclusion and its vice chancellor, Rickey Hall.  In September, the office came under scrutiny after the post suggesting students incorporate gender-neutral pronouns into their interactions with other students. Tennessee lawmakers began discussing cutting funding for diversity programs in December after an article with suggestions on making holiday parties non-religious was posted to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s website.

A bill to limit funding for the program to $2.5 million, written by Sen. Frank Niceley, had recently been referred to the Senate Education Committee in January.

The amendment would also transfer $8 million from UT’s administration. $5 million would go to the Agricultural Extension Service, $3 million would go to UT Chattanooga and UT Martin for rural outreach programs.

UT currently spends $5 million annually on diversity and inclusion, with $3.7 million of that amount going to programs and events that are held on campus and $1.3 million going to compliance with federal law.

The amendment will have to receive approval from the full Senate and House before it officially goes into effect.

Featured image by Ryan McGill

Edited by Ben Webb

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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.