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VOL. 40 | NO. 16 | Friday, April 15, 2016

Clock could run out on efforts to defund UT diversity office

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NASHVILLE (AP) — Opposing approaches could sink a legislative effort to defund the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the University of Tennessee.

Some lawmakers have vowed to strip funding from the office for promoting an annual "Sex Week," recommending the use of gender-neutral pronouns on campus and advising against religious-themed parties and decorations. But they are running out of time because the Legislature is set to adjourn this week.

A Senate finance committee voted to strip the office of about $437,000 in state funds and instead opt to use the money to pay for scholarships for minority engineering students in the upcoming fiscal year. Defunding the office would not affect $5.8 million that was allocated in the budget for the UT Access and Diversity Initiative.

The measure was sponsored by Sen. Todd Gardenhire, R-Chattanooga, who said he will not agree to the House version of the bill that passed on Monday. That version split the money between funding minority scholarships and then would have allowed $100,000 of the remaining funds to pay for a program to put "In God We Trust" decals on law enforcement vehicles.

It's not clear if House lawmakers are willing to agree to the Senate version that uses all the money for scholarships, and if there is enough time to pass a bill if they did.

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