Anti-outsourcing, pro-diversity rally draws 300 at UTK

Around 300 people attended a rally Friday in support of the University of Tennessee, which organizers say is “under attack” from a governor who wants more privatization and a legislature that opposes diversity efforts, reports the News Sentinel.

“Our governor and our legislators show little respect for our public institutions, for the people of Tennessee and for the democracy that our state and our country promises us,” said Melanie Barron, a graduate assistant in geography and member of the UT Diversity Matters coalition. “In the coming months, as these attacks on our university intensify, let us stand together.”

The coalition co-sponsored the rally, along with United Campus Workers, UT’s Faculty Senate and the campus chapter of the American Association of University Professors. Attendees’ posters bore messages on privatization (“Tennessee is not for sale!” “Make us a Tennessee Promise: Keep Our Jobs Here”), living wages and racial and gender diversity (“Diversity Cuts Hurt Us All,” “Martin’s Dream is Forever”).

But their chants, led by UCW representative Cassie Waters, were in unison: “When our university is under attack, what do we do? Stand up! Fight back!”

Volunteers in a “phone zone” held up signs bearing contact information for legislators who have recently filed bills urging cuts to diversity and sustainability programs and funding at UT.

Waters urged attendees to call the legislators and Gov. Bill Haslam, who has proposed to outsource maintenance and management of state-owned buildings, including at the university, that’s now done by state employees. The plan would cost those workers their jobs and benefits, Waters said.