Black Caucus backs UT diversity funding

News release from Black Caucus of State Legislators
NASHVILLE- The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators is condemning an “attack” on diversity programs in higher education by Republican lawmakers.

Some conservative lawmakers have vowed to review funding for college diversity programming across the state after two recent controversies at the University of Tennessee. The Knoxville University’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion recently posted on the campus website suggestions about gender-neutral pronouns and inclusive holiday celebrations that have been criticized by conservatives.

In the wake of those posts, later removed, some Republican lawmakers have called for the General Assembly to de-fund the office and to review other diversity programs across the state.

Chairwoman Brenda Gilmore of Nashville says the Black Caucus “strongly opposes these actions and any actions to reduce diversity efforts in Tennessee”.

Gilmore says the offices are needed to combat decades of discrimination in the state’s colleges and universities and said the caucus is concerned about the “hidden messages that Republican lawmakers are trying to send.

The Tennessee Black Caucus of State Legislators is going on to the record as standing against these actions and will fight any efforts to reduce state funding to these programs.”

Further from the News Sentinel:
Ryan Haynes, chairman of the Tennessee Republican Party, said he’s pleased university staff have increased oversight on the diversity office following the web postings.

UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek’s administration announced Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Rickey Hall had been “counseled” and Vice Chancellor Margie Nichols would oversee the office’s website.

The Tennessee Republican Party Executive Committee approved earlier this month a resolution calling on the Legislature to eliminate funding for the diversity office.

State Rep. Micah Van Huss, R-Jonesborough, said he would propose legislation to defund the office’s budget. Van Huss did respond to a message for comment Wednesday.

“We first have to recognize that Tennessee taxpayer money is being spent wisely,” Haynes said.

He added that the any move to cut funding wasn’t a swipe at diversity.

“The Republican Party is supportive of diversity efforts,” he said. “We want to make sure that people are judged from the content of their character, not the color of their skin or where their face may be.”