Some Republican legislators in the Tennessee legislature are not happy with the state’s taxpayer-funded university system spending $5.5 million every year on diversity programming.
In a contentious Wednesday hearing of the Senate Higher Education Subcommittee, lawmakers grilled University of Tennessee officials on the figures.
“I’m not passing judgment on anybody’s lifestyle,” GOP Sen. Todd Gardenhire said in the hearing, according to The Tennessean. “But I have a responsibility to look at the numbers” to determine if UT is spending money wisely… To me it appears that you’re not.”
The UT system recently got into hot water with the state legislature over a directive published on a school website that instructed students to use gender-neutral pronouns, like xyr and ze, in order to promote a more “tolerant” campus environment. (RELATED: Orwell’s Newspeak Is Coming To A Campus Near You)
Before the university took down the guidelines in early September, 32 state lawmakers sent a letter demanding UT remove it. The legislators also promised hearings on the matter. (RELATED: Lawmakers May Punish A University For Being Too Politically Correct)
UT-Knoxville chancellor Jimmy Cheek said that most of the millions spent on diversity goes toward recruiting minority students to meet the alleged demands of future employers.
“The business community is asking us to diversify our student population,” Cheek told the panel, according to The Tennessean. “That’s where most of these resources go.”
According to the Diversity section of the UTK website, these millions go for programs that include: “Multicultural Mentoring,” commissions for specified minority groups and a recruitment initiative for the College of Engineering.
UT system president Joe DiPietro concurred with Cheeks opinion and told lawmakers the programming “improves the competency of our students and provides us a more inclusive environment on our campuses.”
However, GOP Rep. John Ragan demanded to know of the administrators when the school system would know it had enough diversity to divert the money elsewhere.
“How much is enough? At some point we can declare victory,” Ragan said. “Your diversity goals should have numbers assigned to them so that you know when you’ve got to the goal line.”
DiPietro and Cheek deflected, saying measuring diversity is complicated and that Tennessee universities are trying to instill “global competency” in students.
The Wednesday kerfuffle is not the first time state legislators have criticized the spending of the UT system. In 2013, some Republican lawmakers wanted to review funding for the entire system in response to UTK hosting a “Sex Week,” which was set to feature such luminaries as a lesbian bondage expert.
The school eventually cut state funding from the program.