Beavers disappointed with University of Tennessee chancellor’s plan to reinstate Office of Diversity

Staff Reports • Jun 25, 2017 at 6:42 PM

State Sen. Mae Beavers, who announced earlier this month she plans to run for governor, said Saturday she was disappointed University of Tennessee Chancellor Beverly Davenport announced plans to reinstate the Office of Diversity and hire a new LGBT Pride Center director.

Beavers, a conservative Republican from Mt. Juliet, noted the state legislature passed a law in May 2016 that defunded the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity after the department published materials online that encouraged students and staff to use gender-neutral pronouns. In December, the office made an online post warning students and staff not to hold Christmas parties or holiday parties that came too close to Christmas.

Beavers said the law redirected funds from the Office of Diversity to a minority engineering scholarship program.

“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 said. “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 promotion of a radical liberal agenda with taxpayer dollars and student tuition, shows complete disrespect for our legislative oversight of our state-funded flagship university.

“As governor, I will appoint members of the board of trustees who will be committed to insuring that taxpayer dollars are spent at the University of Tennessee campuses in a way that will promote the best possible education value, the values of our state and embrace rigorous intellectual debate and growth rather then promoting the liberal agendas that seem to dominate college campuses throughout the country. If anything, conservative students on campus are the ones who are being bullied into silence and submission by professors and administrators who see any opinion that contradicts their own liberal viewpoints as being unworthy of protection.”

In August 2016, the Pride Center Working Group – a group of concerned faculty, alumni and staff convened by the University of Tennessee Faculty Senate ­– released a report to formulate a long-term plan for the Pride Center’s viability.

In the report, the group concluded, “The defunding of the Pride Center and the removal of its director has made it impossible for the center to pursue in any meaningful or sustainable way its mission to provide a safe and welcoming environment for LGBTQQIA students and to improve campus climate through awareness, visibility and education. It is the profound hope of the Pride Center Working Group that a new, fully funded center will fulfill the wish expressed at the end of the 2013-2014 Diversity Impact Report: “May our hope and determination for a better campus spur the entrepreneurial ingenuity, grassroots spirit and steadfast resolve that we need to be even greater in the future.”

Attempts to reach Davenport were unsuccessful.

“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.

“I am particularly concerned about the cavalier attitude of the chancellor toward the $455,000 in funding that she plans to spend on the Diversity Office and Pride Center. Her statement that ‘$450,000 is not a lot of money’ in a university budget 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 much to the chancellor making over $585,000 a year, but it is a lot of money to the taxpayers of Tennessee who provide her salary.”

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