Tennessee Lawmakers Propose Investigation into Public University Diversity Offices

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The University of Tennessee, along with other public colleges in the state, may face an investigation into the inner workings of its diversity office.

Earlier this week, a group of 10 GOP state senators and representatives, led by Rep. Eddie Smith, R-Knoxville, sent a letter to House Speaker Beth Harwell and Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey proposing an investigation into the diversity efforts of Tennessee’s public higher education institutions.

According to a spokeswoman for Harwell, she supports the creation of a committee to investigate how local colleges and universities promote diversity, while Ramsey has yet to voice his support of the proposition.

While the proposal states that no suspected illegal action has taken place, it asserts that the allocation of 0.25 percent of the University of Tennessee’s annual budget to its diversity office warrants an investigation into its activities — and that of all diversity offices at Tennessee’s publicly funded colleges and universities. The committee would investigate individuals’ involvement in diversity programming, how the diversity offices are spending money, and the “actual productivity and efficiency of persons engaged in diversity activities.”

If the investigation is granted, the committee would be made up of members from both the Senate Education Committee and the House Education Administration and Planning Committee; the committee would be expected to submit a full written report no later than March 30, 2016.

The University of Tennessee system responded to the proposal in a brief statement: “[We] welcome this legislative oversight as an opportunity to broaden understanding of diversity and inclusion efforts on all [of] our campuses.”