Conservative Republican gubernatorial candidate State Senator Mae Beavers (R-Mt. Juliet) says the Chancellor of the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, Beverly Davenport, and her team are being “disingenuous” concerning the announced plans to use taxpayer funds that previously supported the University’s Diversity Office to reinstate the campus LGBT Pride Center and hire a full time Director.
“The Chancellor has made it clear that, at the very least, she will use state funds to hire a full time Director of the LGBT Pride Center and a few other staffers. Quibbling over whether they have announced details concerning spending the balance of the funds doesn’t change the fact that the agenda of the Diversity Office is being restored regardless of how UT spins it. Perhaps they should call it the Duplicity Office instead of the Diversity Office,” Beavers said on Wednesday of Chancellor Davenport’s announcement.
“This is how I feel and how I will continue to invest (in UT Knoxville): My responsibility is to ensure all our students are welcomed, that they are safe and that we continue to invest in ensuring that our students succeed,” Davenport told the Knoxville News Sentinel on June 22.
“I’ve looked at those monies and we will be spending that money on Title IX, on the pride center and on wellness. All that money will be going into those efforts,” Davenport added, as the News Sentinel reported:
The University of Tennessee Knoxville is making plans to bring back a director for its LGBT pride center, Chancellor Beverly Davenport said on Thursday.
For the last year, the job has been unfilled after the Tennessee legislature decided to redirect funds from the school’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion and the part-time position was eliminated, forcing students to run the center on their own with some administrative oversight from the dean of students.
Student and faculty groups such as the Pride Center Working Group have for the last several months called for UT and Davenport to hire a pride center director and put in place other initiatives aimed at promoting and preserving diversity on campus.
The funding for UT’s diversity office, totaling $445,882, has been put back into the Knoxville campus’ budget for 2017-2018, but before Thursday no plans had been announced about how it would be spent.
Beavers added to the criticism of Davenport’s decision, which she went public with last week within hours of the announcement.
“While the Chancellor’s staff downplays their intent to restore funding for the Pride Center, the fact that there was a part-time director of the Pride Center when the funds were pulled by the Legislature, and the Chancellor now plans to fund a full time Director with taxpayer dollars makes it clear she does not appreciate the concerns that led to the Legislature’s actions last year. She is certainly doing nothing to assure us that the same problems we experienced with the Diversity Office in the past won’t be repeated, regardless of whether it is called a Diversity Office or LGBT Pride Center,” added.
Beavers noted UT-Knoxville is also ignoring the prior use of taxpayer funding for the controversial and provocative “Sex Week” that drew the ire of legislators several years ago.
“The inappropriate use of direct taxpayer funding of “Sex Week” activities was stopped a few years ago; but the continued use of facilities and resources, including MANDATORY student fees, cannot be ignored or covered up,” Beavers pointed out. “University officials blocked direct use of taxpayer dollars in March, 2013 so it isn’t ancient history that University spokespersons and media should be ignoring or denying.”
“As Governor I will appoint members of the University of Tennessee Board of Trustees who will insure that the values of our taxpayers and the important oversight functions of the Legislature are appreciated and respected in the operation of the University,” Beavers said.
“I am anxious to see if the Chancellor embraces the values of our state in leading the University of Tennessee – Knoxville or chooses to impose her values on the campus. Her plans for the Diversity Office funds may give us a clearer picture of the path she will follow,” Beavers concluded.