Tag Archives: diversity

UT diversity tops Beacon TN ‘pork’ for 2016

News release from Beacon Center of Tennessee
In the organization’s 11th annual Tennessee Pork Report, the Beacon Center reveals that state and local government officials squandered $480 million of taxpayers’ hard-earned money this past year.

For the second consecutive year, the Beacon Center allowed the people of Tennessee to pick the infamous “Pork of the Year” award. After hundreds of votes, the “winner” of the award was the University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion. This taxpayer-funded office “encouraged” students and faculty to use gender neutral pronouns such as “ze” and “zir” in lieu of “he” and “she” and tried to ensure that holiday parties on the campus were not “Christmas parties in disguise.”

The report highlights this mismanagement of taxpayer funds and includes the following examples:

•Nearly $56 million taxpayer dollars to fund the canceled-then-revived-on-cable television series Nashville
•$1.5 million paid to out of state artists to litter music city with tacky art
•$900,000 in Washington-style earmarks for Hamilton County commissioners to squander on their pet political projects

After more than a decade of exposing government waste, the Beacon Center remains committed to holding government officials accountable and keeping taxpayers informed. We hope the Pork Report will create a more responsible and transparent government that prioritizes taxpayers.

You can read the full Tennessee Pork Report by clicking here.

UT gets new diversity leader

University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro announced Thursday that he’s created a new position to address diversity and inclusion across the system, reports the News Sentinel.

Noma Anderson will be special adviser to the president on diversity and inclusion starting July 1. DiPietro said Anderson’s role builds on a commitment to diversity and will address challenges related to inclusion.

Anderson is currently dean of the College of Health Professions at the UT Health Science Center in Memphis and chair of the Diversity Advisory Council for the system.

With her new position, Anderson will spend half of her time as an adviser to the president and chair of the diversity council. The other half will be as a faculty member working to streamline admissions, transfers and financial aid processes in the Department of Audiology and Speech Pathology. She will be based in Memphis.

Anderson’s salary will be $230,817.96 and dually funded by UTHSC and UT System, according to the university.

…The creation of the new role comes after state lawmakers defunded the Knoxville campus’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion for one year and after strong support for diversity from faculty and students… Both Cheek and DiPietro stressed during the meetings that UT has to follow the new law but is committed to diversity.

Report faults TN lack of diversity in judges

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A new report faults Tennessee’s court system for not adequately representing the diversity of the state’s population.

The American Constitution Society for Law and Policy ranks Tennessee 45th out of 51 state court jurisdictions for gender and racial diversity. The report says that the state’s judiciaries are 60 percent less diverse on average than the state population.

According to the report, white males make up 36 percent of the state population but account for 74 percent of judges.

While women make up 51 percent of the population, only 20 percent of judges in Tennessee are female. And the report says that minorities make up 26 percent of Tennessee’s population, but just 9 percent of judges are people of color.

Note: The full report is HERE.

UT diversity demolished? Haslam OKs defunding; UT disbands

Gov. Bill Haslam allowed the bill that diverts about $436,000 from the University of Tennessee’s office of diversity and inclusion and into minority engineering scholarships during the next school year to become law without his signature on Friday, reports Richard Locker. The article includes a generic overview of UT diversity squabbling.

“This bill received considerable debate and discussion during legislative session, and the final form of HB2248 was revised so that its primary effect is to redirect administrative funding for the Office for Diversity and Inclusion for one year into scholarships for minority engineering students. Although I do not like the precedent of redirecting funds within a higher education institution’s budget, I find the ultimate outcome of the legislation less objectionable and am therefore letting it become law without my endorsement,” Haslam said in a message to the Legislature.

The governor’s action comes a day after the University of Washington announced that it is hiring UT Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Inclusion Rickey Hall, who has been at the center of controversy and calls to defund his office. (Previous post HERE)

Note: The governor’s decision to go along with the legislative mandate coincides with UT’s announcement that the Office of Diversity and Inclusion is being dismantled.

From the News Sentinel:

The University of Tennessee has disbanded its Office of Diversity, including eliminating four staff positions and a $131,365 operating budget… The reductions include Vice Chancellor for Diversity Rickey Hall, who has accepted a similar position with the University of Washington, an administrative assistant who has since accepted a job elsewhere in the university, and a graduate student, who has since graduated from UT.

Human Resources is also helping a fourth employee in her job search, including open positions within the university, Nichols said. All four will be paid through June 30, she said.

Meanwhile, Donna Braquet, director of the UT Pride Center, will resume her full-time position as an associate professor in the University Libraries department. A quarter of her salary had been covered by the Office of Diversity when she became director of the center.

…Chancellor Jimmy Cheek sent an email to the campus Friday afternoon, in which he said he was “saddened” but the decision.

“This in no way diminishes our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” he wrote. “The new law doesn’t impact most of the funding for those efforts.

“I am committed to making sure each person is respected for who they are and that each person feels safe and valued on our campus.”

Haslam won’t sign (but won’t veto) UT diversity cut, refugee lawsuit

News release/statement from the governor’s office:
Gov. Haslam today returned all of the remaining bills passed by the 109th General Assembly. He is returning SJR 467 without his signature and allowing HB 2248 to become law without his signature. Below are statements from the governor on both of those bills.

Refugee Resolution (returned unsigned)
SJR 467 directs the Attorney General to initiate legal action regarding refugee placements and authorizes the General Assembly to hire outside counsel in the event the Attorney General does not pursue action in this case. I trust the Attorney General to determine whether the state has a claim in this case or in any other, and I have constitutional concerns about one branch of government telling another what to do. I am returning SJR 467 without my signature and am requesting that the Attorney General clarify whether the legislative branch actually has the authority to hire outside counsel to represent the state.

I also question whether seeking to dismantle the Refugee Act of 1980 is the proper course for our state. Rather, I believe the best way to protect Tennesseans from terrorism is to take the steps outlined in my administration’s Public Safety Action Plan, which enhances our ability to analyze information for links to terrorist activity, creates a Cyber Security Advisory Council, restructures our office of Homeland Security, establishes school safety teams, and provides training for active shooter incidents and explosive device attacks.

Office for Diversity (returned unsigned)
I am letting HB 2248 become law without my signature. This bill received considerable debate and discussion during legislative session, and the final form of HB 2248 was revised so that its primary effect is to redirect administrative funding for the Office for Diversity and Inclusion for one year into scholarships for minority engineering students. Although I do not like the precedent of redirecting funds within a higher education institution’s budget, I find the ultimate outcome of the legislation less objectionable and am therefore letting it become law without my endorsement.

UT diversity chief resigning, moving to University of Washington

Rickey Hall, whose tenure as head of the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion has led to controversy, is moving to the state of Washington, reports WATE TV.

University of Washington announced Thursday Hall will be their new vice president of the Office of Minority Affairs and Diversity and chief diversity officer beginning on August 1.

“Rickey Hall brings enormous experience to the University of Washington,” said University of Washington Interim Provost Jerry Baldasty. “He has been a highly regarded leader in diversity for more than 20 years.”

Tennessee lawmakers have been calling on Hall to resign from his position at the University of Tennessee. A bill to strip the University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion of all state funding has passed the House and Senate. The bill would divert all funds designated as salaries for the office, a total of $436,700, to minority engineering scholarships. Gov. Bill Haslam has not yet signed or vetoed the bill.

Note: The University of Washington press release is HERE. It doesn’t mention the controversies over gender-neutral pronouns, Christmas observances, sex week and such that triggered Tennessee legislator grumblings.

House, Senate agree on compromise cut to UT diversity funding

By Sheila Burke, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — State lawmakers voted to send a message that they don’t agree with the sexually open and progressive views of the Office for Diversity and Inclusion on the University of Tennessee campus. So the Legislature on Thursday passed a bill stripping it of state funds — a total of nearly $337,000. The money will be used to fund minority scholarships instead.

Some socially conservative legislators had vowed to gut funding from the office for promoting Sex Week and after it recommended using gender-neutral pronouns on campus and advised against religious-themed parties and decorations.

The money would have gone to pay for the salaries of four people at the diversity office. The bill strips the office of funding for one year.

Sen. Lee Harris, D-Memphis, raised concerns that lawmakers were sending too strong a message and that UT administrators would be disinclined to spend money on the diversity office after that one year because it attracted so much ire from the Legislature. He worried that the minority scholarships, along with funding for the diversity office would be gone even after the year is up.

But another lawmaker disagreed that the legislature had acted too harshly.

“This is a slap on the wrist compared to the foolishness that has come out of that office in the last few years,” Sen. Mike Bell, R-Riceville, said.
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House votes take funding from UT diversity program

The House voted Monday night to strip the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion of $5 million in state funding, leaving the bill’s fate to the Senate. At UT-Knoxville, student supporters plan “a class walk-out and rally” to protest the action.

From WPLN:

The move is meant to shut down a program that drew attention last year for suggesting the use of gender neutral pronouns and for recommending Christmas parties be referred to as holiday celebrations.

Those were just the latest actions on the UT Knoxville campus that have irked conservatives in the Tennessee legislature, like Rep. Roger Kane, R-Knoxville.

“There is diversity, but what this center does is it creates a sense of divisiveness,” Kane said Monday night, just before the chamber approved the funding change (Note: The vote: 66-22).

The House measure (HB2248) would take money for the diversity office and split it between scholarships for minority students and decals for police cruisers that say “In God We Trust.”

The state Senate is working on a separate plan to defund the diversity office. It, too, would put money into minority scholarships but not the “In God We Trust” stickers.
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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.”

Gardenhire drops push to cut UT diversity funding

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A bill seeking to strip funding from University of Tennessee’s diversity office has been withdrawn in the Senate.

Republican Sen. Todd Gardenhire of Chattanooga withdrew the bill (SB1912) from consideration on Wednesday. Supporters had been upset at the state’s flagship university for promoting an annual Sex Week and for recommending the use of gender-neutral pronouns on campus and advising against religious-themed parties and decorations.

The House version of the bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Micah Van Huss of Jonesborough would have redirected $100,000 from the diversity office to pay for the school to create “In God We Trust” decals and send them to law enforcement agencies around the state.

Republican Gov. Bill Haslam has spoken out against dismantling diversity funding at higher education instructions.