Conservative Republican Gubernatorial candidate State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) expressed “disappointment” on Friday night in an exclusive interview with The Tennessee Star that the Chancellor of the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Beverly Davenport, has announced plans to reinstate the Campus Diversity Office and hire a new Director of the LGBT Pride Center despite the Legislature defunding the highly controversial office last year.
Earlier in the evening, Beavers, an announced candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, touched briefly on the issue in her remarks to the Cannon County Republican Party Reagan Day Dinner in Woodbury.
It was important, Beavers said in her talk, that we uphold the morals of our country as our Founding Fathers intended.
She noted that the diversity department at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville had been mired in controversy, and for those reasons had lost significant state funding in the Tennessee General Assembly’s budgeting process.
“They got their money back,” Beavers told the crowd of about 125, then added that the administration at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville then proceeded to hire a head of the “Pride Department.”
Williamson County businessman Bill Lee, another announced candidate for the Republican gubernatorial nomination, also spoke at the event, along with State Rep. Judd Matheny (R-Tullahoma).
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN-07) was the featured speaker for the evening.
“It is disappointing that the new Chancellor has decided to ignore the clear intent and legitimate concerns of the Tennessee Legislature which defunded the office after it became clear that taxpayer funds were being used to promote a radical agenda that did not reflect the values of the State and our citizens,” Beavers told The Star after the Cannon County event.
“Her decision to once again hire a Director of the so-called Pride Center after the problems we have experienced at the University with Sex Week activities, ridiculous directives about gender-neutral pronouns and ‘inclusive’ holiday parties, and promotion of a radical liberal agenda with taxpayer dollars and student tuition, shows complete disrespect for our legislative oversight of our state’s flagship University,” the gubernatorial candidate from Mt. Juliet told The Star.
Beavers also pointed out that as governor she plans to appoint members of the Board of Trustees who will be committed to insuring that taxpayer dollars are spent at all University of Tennessee campuses in ways that “promote the best possible education value, the values of our state, and embrace rigorous intellectual debate and growth rather than advancing the liberal agenda that dominates college campuses throughout the country.”
Davenport became the 8th Chancellor of the University on February 15, 2017, after Chancellor Jimmy Cheek elected to return to the classroom. Prior to her appointment at UT she served as President of the University of Cincinnati. “Perhaps after the Chancellor spends a little more time in Tennessee she will understand that the term ‘Pride of the Southland Band’ refers to the extraordinary talents of the UT Marching Band that has proudly represented the University and our State for generations and that it has nothing to do with promoting an alternative sexual preference” Beavers told The Star.
While announcing her intent to hire a new Director of the Pride Center and re-staff the Diversity Office, Davenport said on Thursday that the $445,882 in funds that the Legislature reallocated from the Diversity Office last year is not really a lot of money in a University budget. Beavers took issue with that statement as well.
“I am particularly concerned about the cavalier attitude of the Chancellor towards the $445,000 in funding that she plans to spend on the Diversity Office and Pride Center,” Beavers stated. “ Her statement that it “is not a lot of money” seems to indicate a complete disconnect from the challenges facing Tennessee families as they struggle to afford the ever increasing tuition at the University. Nearly a half million dollars may not seem like much to the Chancellor making over $585,000 a year, but it is a lot of money to the taxpayers of Tennessee who pay her salary,” Beavers said in her concluding remarks to The Star.