Students freak out as Tennessee votes to defund “Office for Diversity and Inclusion”

April 25, 2016 in News by RBN Staff


Red Alert Politics
 |  | April 24, 2016

Students supporting the UT Diversity Matters coalition protest lay down on the Joe Johnson/John Ward University Mall on Tuesday, April 19, 2016, at the University of Tennessee. The protest comes as the Senate Finance Committee on Tuesday sent to the Senate floor a bill to shift funding from salaries in the University of Tennessee's Office for Diversity and Inclusion on the Knoxville campus into scholarships for minority students in engineering programs. (Caitie McMekin/Knoxville News Sentinel via AP)

A move months in the making has finally come to fruition as both Tennessee houses have voted to defund the University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion at the Knoxville location, according to Inside Higher Ed. 

The office is known for its bizarre ways of promoting diversity, including warnings against Christmas parties and for encouraging the use of gender neutral pronouns. Both of which eventually had to come down after backlash, though students still supported the office.

If Thursday’s bill is signed into law, the $436,000 appropriation for the university’s office will be barred for the coming budget year, with the money being used to fund minority scholarships for engineering students.

Despite the funds still promoting diversity, students reacted harshly against the vote. After December’s study-in, the students on Tuesday afternoon walked out of their classes to stage a ‘die-in.’

After meeting with the administration and making calls to Nashville, more than 200 students participated in the die-in on Tuesday, as the Tennessee Journalist reported.  On those previous efforts, senior Jonathan Clayton believes students have been shown disregard. “We’re here today to show them that we care and that we demand that they change,” Clayton said about Tuesday’s event.

Many students laid down on the pedestrian walkway, while others stood over them. They then proceeded to mach through halls and buildings where they continued their chanting. Once at the Presidential Court courtyard, the white students stood in the center while the minority students stood around them.

Many took to using #UTDiversityMatters over Twitter, including the state Democrats.

A petition has also been created, urging Governor Bill Haslam, a Republican, to veto since “the office plays a vital role in making the university competitive for the best students, faculty, and staff and it makes campus life welcoming for all.” As of Sunday the petition has 1,390 signatures of its goal of 2,500.

The petition appears via the Tennessee Equality Project (TEP) which “engages state and local governments in Tennessee on behalf of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.”