The left-wing campus crusaders and their administrative allies at the University of Tennessee are running up against a formidable obstacle: the Republican-dominated state legislature that holds the University’s purse strings. From the Tennessean:
The General Assembly’s attempt to defund the University of Tennessee’s Office for Diversity and Inclusion won additional approval Tuesday, although senators signaled some internal disagreement on the issue.
Sen. Todd Gardenhire’s bill would divert all state funds from the Knoxville office’s budget to minority scholarships for engineering students. It would also bar the university from using state funds to support the annual Sex Week programming or gender-neutral pronouns.
The bill passed 9-2 Tuesday in the Senate Finance, Ways and Means Committee. It appears to be headed for the Senate floor…
This isn’t the first time a state’s elected representatives have waded into university politics when they feel that things are getting out of hand, and it won’t be the last—especially if the campus protest movements continue to dominate headlines in the next academic year. While campus politics appear to be veering ever-further to the left, Republicans have firm control of a majority of the nation’s state legislatures. And continued campus PC antics are sure to get their attention.
Legislators should generally be wary of interfering too heavily in the internal workings of a university politics so as to protect academic freedom and independence from government bodies. But there is nothing wrong with a legislature using its oversight responsibilities to ensure that students and taxpayers are being well-served by their public institutions. And there is very little evidence that campus diversity offices—which generally offer diversity promotion materials and support ethnic identity centers—are actually the best way to advance the interests of disadvantaged students. The Tennessee legislators’ idea to divert that money to “minority scholarships for engineering students” sounds far more promising.
As we’ve said before, campus activists across the country are playing with fire. If they push too hard, they may find themselves facing hostile politicians in their state capitols. Activists are used to getting their way from weak-willed campus administrators, but state politicians are unlikely to roll over quite so easily.