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Diversity at Tennessee

Legislative Update (3/5/2017):

In a budget hearing on March 1, Sen. Joey Hensley proposed an amendment that earmarked a sum equivalent to the former budget for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, for an “Office of Intellectual Diversity” primarily aimed at encouraging conservative students and faculty to speak out.  Sen. Hensley said “We really didn’t mean to just defund them [the Office of Diversity and Inclusion] for a year and then bring it back in a year.”  The Senate is very concerned over this development.

Senate Statement on UTK Pride Center Vandalism (9/11/2016):

The UTK Faculty Senate stands with LGBT+ colleagues, staff, and students at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in deploring the act of vandalism directed at the UTK Pride Center over the Labor Day Weekend. We recognize that LGBT+ members of our university community, like members of the LGBT+ community nationally, are at high risk for hate crimes – as evidenced by the events this summer in Orlando, Florida and abundant statistical evidence. We want our campus to be a place where the well-being of all members of the community is a paramount concern. We believe that creating a diverse and inclusive campus helps the university recruit and retain qualified students, faculty, and staff, enriches the educational experience, and will only enhance our university’s reputation. To this end, we will work to advocate for the mission of the UTK Pride Center, funding its programs and personnel to a level commensurate with Top 25 Public Universities.

Statements of Other Units on UTK Pride Center Vandalism

College of Nursing

VolVision 2020 Includes Diversity and Inclusion

The VolVision 2020 strategic plan adds “Diversity and Inclusion” as a priority for the university.

The VolVision 2020 Summary is here.  The Diversity and Inclusion priority is on pp. 42-46 of the document (pp. 22-24 of the PDF).

Course Syllabi and Diversity

As a result of Tennessee Public Chapter 1066, The University of Tennessee is prohibited from promoting the use of gender neutral pronouns. To learn more about this law, please see our FAQ.

While this law places restrictions on the university administration, faculty members have authority over the content of their syllabi. Our Campus Syllabus includes a University Civility Statement (see below) which encourages faculty members to foster a learning environment that is inclusive for all members of the campus community. The Faculty Senate Task Force on Diversity and Inclusion encourages faculty members to consider adding the following statement to their syllabi:

“Name and Pronoun Accommodations: If you use a name and/or pronouns other than what is in the course roll, please email me with the name and/or pronouns that you would like me to use and I will be glad to accommodate this request.”

University Civility Statement:

Civility is genuine respect and regard for others: politeness, consideration, tact, good manners, graciousness, cordiality, affability, amiability and courteousness. Civility enhances academic freedom and integrity, and is a prerequisite to the free exchange of ideas and knowledge in the learning community. Our community consists of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and campus visitors. Community members affect each other’s well-being and have a shared interest in creating and sustaining an environment where all community members and their points of view are valued and respected. Affirming the value of each member of the university community, the campus asks that all its members adhere to the principles of civility and community adopted by the campus:

How the State Law Targeting Diversity Affects the University

Many faculty have questions about the fate of the Pride Center and using gender neutral pronouns in the wake of Tennessee Public Chapter 1066 (formerly known as HB 2248), which defunded the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, shifted the monies to scholarships in the College of Engineering, and mandated that no state funds be used to promote gender neutral pronouns. The Faculty Senate Diversity and Inclusion Task Force has put together a FAQ on some key issues of concern:

Frequently Asked Questions about Tennessee Public Chapter 1066

Text of Tennessee Public Chapter 1066

Pride Center Forum and Senate Executive Council Resolution

In the spring of 2016, the Tennessee Legislature passed House Bill 2248, which mandates a number of specific measures against the University of Tennessee, Knoxville including the defunding of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for 2016-2017. As a result of this bill, the university administration initially cut the Pride Center, which works to provide a safe and welcoming environment for UT’s diverse LBGT+ communities and facilitated SafeZone training last year for more than 500 people.

On June 17, the Faculty Senate Diversity Committee hosted a public forum about the University’s handling of the controversy around the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and in particular, the UTK Pride Center. Representatives from the Pride Center spoke about their history and their important work, including SafeZone training and the Pride Ambassadors, as well as the long-lasting impact the Pride Center had on people who now work at other institutions. The Student Health Center presented on its support for the center. In addition, the formation of a Pride Center Steering Committee was discussed.

As part of their response to this Forum, the Faculty Senate Executive Council has passed a resolution in support of the Pride Center. We call upon the administration to reinstate the Pride Center and secure outside funding to ensure its continued operation.

Ad Hoc Senate Committee on Diversity

Recently the Tennessee Legislature passed House Bill 2248, which mandates a number of specific measures against the University of Tennessee, Knoxville including the defunding of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion for 2016-2017. As a result of this bill, the university administration has cut back the Pride Center, which works to provide a safe and welcoming environment for UT’s diverse LBGT+ communities and facilitated SafeZone training last year for more than 500 people.

The UTK Faculty Senate established the Diversity Task Force to focus on diversity and inclusion issues affecting our faculty roles and the well-being of the university community, including students, faculty, staff and visitors to campus. The Task Force is co-chaired by Bonnie Ownley, Professor of Entomology and Plant Pathology and Beauvais Lyons, Professor of Art and includes faculty, student and staff representation.

Diversity Task Force Charge and Members (Updated 8-25-16)

Web Link: Tennessee House Bill 2248:


After Rep. John Duncan criticized the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s “Best Practices for Inclusive Holiday Celebrations in the Workplace” on Fox News, commentators and legislators alike have joined in the criticism, calling for Chancellor Jimmy Cheek to resign and suggesting the Office of Diversity and Inclusion be severely curtailed or eliminated.

This is a matter of great concern to the Senate, as we stand for institutional autonomy and the promotion of diversity as ethical and pedagogical principles.  We have put together this page to make information available to the UT and statewide community about this issue.

Press Release from Executive Council in Support of Chancellor Cheek and Vice Chancellor Hall

An immediate response to the calls for resignation.

Faculty Senate Resolution on Diversity and Inclusion

In which we express support for diversity and inclusion efforts and call on University President DiPietro to support Chancellor Cheek and Vice Chancellor Hall in their pursuit of these goals.

Faculty Senate Resolution Against Undue Influence on the University of Tennessee

In which we decry outside interference with what should be university-level decisions.  We support the Board of Trustees as an appropriate body to make such decisions and call on Governor Haslam in his role as board chair to uphold the Board’s authority.

UT Campus Ministries Statement

This statement from four UT Campus ministries supports the Office of Diversity and Inclusion and affirms that these Christian ministries do not feel persecuted or discriminated against.

UTK Facts

Information about the demographics of students and faculty at the university.

Overall Diversity Funding.

A broad estimate of the total funds the system spends on diversity, including scholarships, compliance with federal and state laws, and diversity efforts.

The budget for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion itself is $436,722, which is .02% of UT’s budget.

Response to Legislative Budget Office

This is a response to the LBO about diversity funding. It contains a breakdown by campus and office.



Joanne Hall: University of Tennessee Can’t Let Legislators Dismiss Minority Voices

Former President of the Senate Joanne Hall outlines some of the key issues in this controversy.

Tennessee This Week

This is a discussion on WATE’s Tennessee This Week between Candace White, professor of communication and delegate to the United Faculty Councils of Tennessee and Rep. Martin Daniel (Knoxville).

AAUP Statement on Diversity

The American Association of University Professors‘ statement in defense of diversity. Also contains a wide variety of resources on diversity.

Calm Down, Have a Cookie

This is a blog post on Huffington Post from Misty Anderson, Professor of English, correcting misinformed perspectives on the issue.

Where’s the line? Legislative intervention in UT matters deeper than diversity

An editorial article in the Knoxville News Sentinel.


WBIR report on UT student and faculty support for the Chancellor (12/4)

Lawmakers want UT Chief to Resign (12/4)

Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey Wants Action (12/4)

Accreditation Issues

The calls from the legislature run counter to the SACS Principles of Accreditation:

“3.2.1 The governing board of the institution is responsible for the selection and the periodic evaluation of the chief executive officer. (CEO evaluation / selection)

“3.2.4 The governing board is free from undue influence from political, religious, or other external bodies and protects the institution from such influence. (External influence)”

Updated: 6 March 2017

Note: The statements on this page represent the views of the Faculty Senate, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Tennessee or its administration.