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State Looks To Defund College's 'Inclusiveness' Office

Some Tennessee lawmakers want to strip the University of Tennessee's "diversity and inclusion" programs of funding and use the money to put "In God We Trust" stickers on law enforcement vehicles.

Both the state legislature's house and senate are working on separate bills that would defund the controversial program at the state university. The house version, sponsored by Republican state Rep. Micah Van Huss, would strip the diversity and inclusion program's funding, and take $100,000 from the university annually for the next three years to fund the national motto decals.

The state senate's version would similarly defund the diversity program, but would transfer the money into agricultural and rural outreach programs, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel.

Lawmakers in both chambers have set their sights on the school after a series of headline-grabbing policies and internal communications that depict the school as an example of political correctness run amok.

In December 2015, the university was widely mocked for an Office of Diversity and Inclusion directive that forbid religious or cultural themes from holiday parties, warning students and staff not to serve any cultural or religious food, or to "play games with religious or cultural themes,” like spinning dreidels or planning "Secret Santa" gift-giving among colleagues.

In August 2015, the same Office of Diversity and Inclusion asked students to use the gender-neutral pronouns “ze, hir, hirs, and xe, xem, xyr" to avoid offending people who don't fall into society's "gender binary," Knoxville's WATE reported.

And in June, the school's student senate tried to use funding from the Americans with Disabilities Act to pay for new signs marking bathrooms as gender neutral, the school's Daily Beacon student newspaper reported.

It all added up to too much for lawmakers, who say the school is out of control. When a colleague asked Van Huss if lawmakers could give the school a chance to "fix these issues internally rather than us doing it," the Republican said he didn't trust the school.

"I don't know if it would be advantageous to take a step back," Van Huss said. "The University of Tennessee and specifically the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, in my mind and my research, has a history of repeat offenses. ... Personally I don't trust the University of Tennessee to fix the problem on their own."

Currently, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion receives $8 million in state taxpayer funds. Both the state house and senate bills would strip all funding from the office, leaving it with only federal funding.

"I just don't understand the usefulness of this office," said Republican state Sen. Ron Ramsey. "What do they do every day on a day-to-day basis, other than liberal feel-good programs without actually accomplishing anything?"

Sources: Knoxville News Sentinel (2), Daily Beacon / Photo credit: University of Tennessee/Flickr

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