A year after the state legislature diverted its diversity funding, the University of Tennessee-Knoxville will see the funding come back July 1, but school officials have yet to decide how to spend it, reports the Knoxville News Sentinel.
The school will receive $445,882 in state funding for diversity, an allocation that was used in the past to support the Office for Diversity and Inclusion.
Lawmakers voted last year to divert funding to minority engineering scholarships for one year after outcry over Sex Week and the school’s promotion of gender neutral pronouns and discouragement of winter holiday celebrations that include any type of reference to Christmas. The school is still prohibited from using state funds on those particular efforts even though the funding is restored.
Earlier this year, some lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to pass a measure that would encourage intellectual diversity on campus and make conservative views more welcome.
State Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga) told the News Sentinel that he wishes the university would continue to use the state funding on minority scholarships. Gardenhire sponsored the Senate version of the bill last year.
Gardenhire said the Office for Diversity and Inclusion was “giving a horrible reputation to the University of Tennessee and the state.”
“I thought this would be a way for the university to quietly just do away with that office and focus on what real diversity is,” Gardenhire said.
Gardenhire said if the school continues to use state funding on “radical and polarizing” things, then he will return to working on pulling away funding.
Chancellor Beverly Davenport’s “main priority is having a safe place for all our students,” said Ryan Robinson, vice chancellor for communications. “We will be providing updates and initiatives to our campus community when we finalize our plans moving forward.”
It hasn’t been decided whether the Office for Diversity and Inclusion will be reinstated, Robinson said.
Some members of the faculty senate want to see funding go to the Pride Center for LGBT students. The center previously fell under the diversity and inclusion office but is currently operating without state dollars.
Last year, hundreds of students walked out of class to protest lawmakers diverting the funding.