DiPietro on diversity

From the News Sentinel:
University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro said the controversy about inclusive holiday parties on the Knoxville campus never rose to “the level of needing to think about accepting a resignation or termination.”

But he told reporters in Nashville the university apologized for the post on the Office for Diversity and Inclusion’s website.

“We felt that moving forward it would be best to clear the air and say we understand some people were offended,” DiPietro said, noting he thought the post could be improved, because using “hot-button items” like Christmas and dreidels — along with an earlier post recommending gender-neutral pronouns for transgender students — wasn’t needed to make the point.

DiPietro said he worked with Chancellor Jimmy Cheek for the past three days on a response and was at a state Senate higher education subcommittee on Tuesday. But lawmakers didn’t ask DiPietro about the holiday party controversy.

The university president also said he was sorry to see the latest calls from lawmakers for defunding the Officer for Diversity and Inclusion at UT.

“Great universities have the ability to provide the kind of educational opportunity that is beyond the classroom that makes people more multiculturally competent, and it makes our product out of school much more attractive in the work force,” he said.

DiPietro said UT leaders are committed to advancing diversity, but then seem “to shoot ourselves in the foot with either pronouns or holiday directives that upset many people.”

He said part of the reason is because of people’s different views, but there needs to be calm understanding and conversation.

“So the reality is we thought it was best to do what we’ve done and the chancellor felt that way too,” DiPietro said. “Everybody is important and in trying to be inclusive, we’ve tried to say that. It’s the approach that gets us into trouble.”