Diversity Legislation Update

Category: In the Press

Students walking on the UTK campus

The House Education Administration and Planning Subcommittee yesterday considered two bills impacting diversity and inclusion efforts at the University of Tennessee.

The first proposal, HB2248 by Representative Micah VanHuss (R-Jonesborough), originally sought to prohibit state funding from being spent in support of the UTK Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  As initially drafted, it diverted all state funding for the aforementioned office to create a program for placing decals of the national motto on local and state law enforcement vehicles.

In the Subcommittee meeting, however, Representative VanHuss introduced an amendment that rewrote the bill.  The amendment narrows the original scope of the proposal and clarifies that no state funding may be used by UT to promote gender-neutral pronouns, the student-led event ‘Sex Week,’ and in promoting or inhibiting the celebration of religious holidays on campus.  It also cuts roughly $100,000 from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (with the legislative intent of it coming from the Office of Diversity and Inclusion) and diverts that funding to create a national motto decal program for state and local law enforcement vehicles.  The bill passed as amended and will next be considered by the full House Education Administration and Planning Committee.

The Subcommittee did discuss the possibility of keeping the $100,000 within the UT budget, instead redirecting it to uses such as scholarships. That discussion is expected to continue in the full Committee when it takes up the legislation.

The Subcommittee also considered HB2066 by Representative Martin Daniel (R-Knoxville), which sought to limit spending across the UT System on diversity, multicultural, or sustainability programs to $2.5 million annually, among other provisions. Ultimately, the bill was sent to summer study, meaning that it will not be further considered by the legislature this year. 

At this time, indicators suggest that the House will use HB2248 as its vehicle for addressing the diversity and inclusion issue.  There is also a pending proposal in the Senate in the form of a recommended Education Committee amendment to the state budget. Read more about that issue here.

Stay tuned for more information on this issue as it becomes available.

Read the latest from the Knox News Sentinel on this issue here.

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