Diversity Legislation Heads to Committee

Category: State Issues

Legislation definition

Outside of the surprise budget amendment that was recommended last week by the Senate Education Committee, little legislative debate has yet to officially occur on two primary pieces of legislation that impact diversity and inclusion efforts at the University of Tennessee System. This is all about to change over the next two weeks as the Senate Education Committee and House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee approach their final meetings.

The first proposal, sponsored by Representative Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville) and Senator Frank Niceley (R-Strawberry Plains), limits spending across the UT System on diversity, multiculturalism, and sustainability programs to $2.5 million, among other provisions. “Spending” in the bill is undefined and is not restricted to only state appropriations—meaning that the bill would also restrict the use of private gift dollars at UT institutions. Currently, UT spends approximately $4.97 million annually in support of diversity and inclusion, multiculturalism, and compliance efforts across all of its campuses and institutes. The significant reduction in resources could essentially limit everything but compliance-related efforts—stifling much of the good work being done on the recruitment and retention fronts in these areas as well as programming to help guard against inappropriate and insensitive behavior on campus. You can read more about the bill here. It has been placed on the March 15 House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee calendar and the March 16 Senate Education Committee calendar.

The second proposal, sponsored by Representative Micah VanHuss (R-Jonesborough) and Senator Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), prohibits state funds from being spent in support of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at UT Knoxville. It further diverts any existing state funding going towards that office to create a program for “placing decals of the national motto on local and state law enforcement vehicles.”

UT opposes both proposals. If they are not considered this week by the respective Committees, they will most certainly be considered next week in what would be final committee proceedings.

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