New plan: UT diversity money to scholarships, not ‘In God we trust’ decals

The Senate Education Committee revised a bill to cut spending on the University of Tennessee Office of Diversity, then approved it on a 7-1 vote.

From The Tennessean’s report:

(Sponsor Sen. Todd) Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, had originally planned to divert $436,722 from the Office for Diversity and Inclusion at UT Knoxville’s campus to print “In God We Trust” decals for law enforcement vehicles. But an amendment added Wednesday changed the bill so that it would divert that money to a scholarship for minority students pursuing an engineering degree at UT.

…“If a lot of us don’t like this office of diversity and all of the silly stuff that they do up with there with Sex Week and all the other things, then how do we make use of that and turn it into something productive?” Gardenhire said. “Let’s just take these positions that are really causing a lot of these problems with the alumni and everybody else in the community, and let’s just re-divert that money and put it into that scholarship fund.”

…The change won broad support from the committee. Lou Hanemann, a member of UT’s government relations team, spoke to the committee Wednesday and indicated this effort was more favorable than the others.

“We understand the purpose of shifting that money within the university to scholarships,” Hanemann said. “While we would prefer no legislation, I think that, of all the possibilities, this is something we would defer to the legislature on.”

Sen. Steven Dickerson, R-Nashville, was the only committee member to criticize and vote against the bill, saying it set a “bad precedent” for lawmakers to dive into the funding of university offices.

“This is probably the least bad of the options,” Dickerson said. “But it does seem like we’re micromanaging the university.”