House Bill 2248 in Tennessee recently was passed by the legislature by a margin of 63-21 in the House and 27-3 in the Senate. Governor Bill Haslam neither vetoed the bill or signed it into law within the legal window for such actions, allowing it to become law. The bills strips $445,882 that had been earmarked for the Office for Diversity at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. As a result, the diversity office will receive no state funding from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. The law also prohibits other university funds to be diverted to fund the diversity office.
Administrators in the diversity office at the university had angered legislators by calling for the use of gender-neutral pronouns and the suggestion that office holiday parties not be “Christmas parties in disguise.”
While the university’s organizational diversity efforts will be defunded, the silver lining of the legislation is that the funds will instead be used for scholarships for students in engineering programs who are members of underrepresented groups.