All nine of the Tennessee’s Republicans in Congress have denounced UT Office of Diversity guidelines that suggested holiday parties should not be “a Christmas party in disguise,” reports Michael Collins.
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey said UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek should resign if he had anything to do with the guidelines, which are posted on the website of UT’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion. Ramsey also hinted that the university could be stripped of its state funding.
“If the University of Tennessee cannot keep its house in order the General Assembly must shift funding to the University of Memphis, ETSU or other institutions of higher learning that don’t embarrass us nationally on a regular basis,” Ramsey wrote on Facebook.
U.S. Rep. Scott DesJarlais, a South Pittsburg Republican, slammed the holiday party directive as “nonsense” and said he would encourage the Tennessee General Assembly to investigate and, where necessary, “ensure that tax dollars are not being expended on this kind of frivolity.”
“Much like the federal government, which has strayed into far too many areas, universities should spend their time and resources on their primary goal – preparing graduates for the real world,” DesJarlais said. “When offices are wasting time and energy on drafting memos like what we have seen from this particular department, taxpayers in our state are rightfully outraged at the silliness of it all.”
U.S. Rep. Diane Black, a Gallatin Republican, said the guidelines — which suggested faculty and staff holiday parties should not be “a Christmas party in disguise” — would be laughable “if only the implications for students were not so serious.”
“With these rules, the UT Office of Diversity and Inclusion is not promoting diversity — it is stifling it,” Black said. “This kind of hyper-political correctness is not representative of the UT Volunteer spirit that our state has come to know and love, and it has no place on the university’s campus. Between these offensive, Scrooge-like guidelines, and the school’s much-maligned attempt at regulating gender-neutral pronouns, it is past time for Chancellor (Jimmy) Cheek to get a handle on the university’s affairs or make way for someone who can.”
U.S. Rep. Phil Roe, a Johnson City Republican, said the Constitution “guarantees our freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.”
“Christmas is a holiday to celebrate the birth of Christ, and it’s ridiculous that a public institution would issue guidance limiting religious freedoms,” he said. “It seems to me a better path to inclusive holiday celebrations would be to encourage every member of the UT community to take pride in and celebrate their own faith as well as the different faiths of their colleagues.”
U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander, a former UT president, noted that President Barack Obama said “Merry Christmas, everybody” when lighting the National Christmas tree in Washington on Thursday and that, the day before, U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan lit the Christmas tree outside the U.S. Capitol.
“Maybe next year the president and the speaker should invite the UT diversity office to our annual national Christmas tree lightings so they can see how truly American it is to celebrate Christmas,” Alexander said.
…”I certainly don’t think Tennesseans and others at the university need any guidance on how to celebrate the Christmas season,” said U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, a Chattanooga Republican.
In Nashville, Gov. Bill Haslam resisted calls for Cheek’s resignation and said the university’s “results have been outstanding lately.” But he questioned the diversity office’s focus.
“I just feel like maybe the office of diversity up there is kind of wandering into some areas they don’t need to do,” Haslam said.