Lawmakers Defund UT Diversity Office

Posted at 7:44 PM, Apr 21, 2016

Thursday, lawmakers voted on a final version of the bill to defund the UT Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

A conference committee finalized a version of the bill that defunds the office for one year. The more than $430,000 will instead fund scholarships for minority engineering students.

This bill caused an uproar at UT Knoxville, with thousands of students and professors walking out of class earlier this week.

The bill's sponsor says the legislation was in response to diversity office programming like sex week and suggestions that students use non-gender specific pronouns and not mention or observe anything religious when celebrating winter holidays.

"This legislation is a warning shot across the bough to the administration at UT," said bill sponsor Rep. Micah Van Huss, "we're kind of leaving it up to them to fix the problem. In some ways we could have done a whole lot more with this legislation." He warned if the UT office did not "get its act together" he would bring similar legislation in the future.

"The people that supported this bill are speaking out in 2016 against diversity, against inclusion," said Rep. Mike Stewart (D, Nashville) who was one of a handful of vocal opponents to the bill, "this is one of the worst bills that will pass this legislature."

That bill now heads to the Governor.

Conference commitees will return Friday, two days later than their expected last day. Conference committees will meet first thing in the morning to resolve the different versions of several bills, including two tax bills.

Senate and House members will finalize versions of the Hall Tax cut and a bill supporting property tax relief for disabled veterans before a final vote.