Tennessee lawmaker plans to defund UT's Office of Diversity

WATE 6 On Your Side Staff - KNOXVILLE (WATE) - A Tennessee representative from Johnson City is sponsoring legislation to defund the University of Tennessee's Office of Diversity.

The legislation, sponsored by Representative Micah Van Huss (R) would use the funds to pay for any local or state law enforcement agency that would like to decal the national motto, "In God We Trust," on their vehicles. For now, Huss said the funds would go into the state's general fund.

"My office began working on drafts of this legislation when the Office of Diversity proposed using gender-neutral pronouns earlier this summer," said Huss in a statement. "We had been trying to draft something that would leave the office in place, but bring more oversight. However, after this latest action, it is clear that this taxpayer-funded department in no way reflects the values of Tennesseans. First, it was Sex Week, then the Gender Neutral Pronouns, now these recommendations to ensure that "holiday" parties have nothing to do with Christmas. What else has the Office of Diversity been doing with our tax dollars?"

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Van Huss went on to say, "I am not opposed to creating an environment where students of all backgrounds can find a place. I am not opposed to funding staff to foster this kind of environment. However, this is NOT what the so-called Office of Diversity is doing. They are not celebrating diversity, they are wiping it out. It is the office of Political Correctness. Sadly, being a student with strong Judeo-Christian values, who wants to observe traditional celebrations, is no longer politically correct at UT."

Huss concluded by wishing everyone in Tennessee a "Merry Christmas."

University of Tennessee faculty support Cheek, Hall on workplace holiday party guidelines

While lawmakers are calling for Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Vice Chancellor Rickey Hall to resign amid controversy over University of Tennessee Office of Diversity and Inclusion's workplace holiday party guidelines, the faculty senate said they support the chancellor and vice chancellor.

The Faculty Senate said they will hold an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss calls for resignation by Tennessee legislators over issues concerning the University of Tennessee Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Organizers said they will draft a resolution to send to University of Tennessee President Dr. Joe DiPietro.

"We just feel like it's been so misconstrued. These were guidelines for holiday practice. They were just encouraging people to be sensitive," said Dr. Candace White, UT Faculty Senate Executive Council member. "The resolution is really just a statement and it goes on the record. And Dr. DiPetro, as he said in his statement, is carefully weighing this issue from a lot of different angles and he's looking to faculty and staff to see what we feel."

In a letter sent to Dr. DiPietro by Theresa Lee, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the university and signed by 20 other department heads in the college, Lee said Chancellor Cheek and Vice Chancellor Hall have worked tirelessly to help make University of Tennessee a more welcoming and inclusive place for all students, faculty and staff and that the Faculty Senate supports their efforts.

"Such an attack demonstrates the deep need for UT Knoxville's initiative to respect and increase diversity and inclusion. Inclusion in this case asserts the willingness to welcome all traditions, and not to prioritize one over the other. A policy of inclusion serves the University and the State of Tennessee by welcoming and recognizing the talents and contributions of students, faculty, and staff of all religions and races. The Best Practices noted above are also entirely consistent with the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which refuses the establishment of a state religion. As a government entity, we firmly believe it is the duty of the University of Tennessee to stand for a position that recognizes no single religious observance over any other. We applaud Chancellor Cheek as he stands for diversity and inclusion."

In addition, petitions to support Cheek and Hall have gotten more than 3,000 faculty, students and staff signatures since Thursday. The Faculty Senate, Student Government Association and the University of Tennessee Knoxville chapter of the American Association of University Professors have all joined in the effort to rally support for the petitions.


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