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campus culture wars
State Legislature Wages War on Campus PC

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.

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  • ” The Tennessee legislators’ idea to divert that money to “minority scholarships for engineering students” sounds far more promising.”

    Promising? Maybe. Unconstitutional? No doubt.

    • Andrew Allison

      How so? He who pays the Piper, etc.

      • “No state shall…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”

        • Tom

          We already have minority scholarships, many of which are run by the government. Doesn’t seem like it is.

          • I actually don’t think it is unconstitutional because the Supreme Court has, for political/policy reasons, been misinterpreting the Equal Protection Clause for a very long time. But given the way the Supreme Court has moved on the issue in the last 20 years, it’s just a matter of time until such a thing would be labeled unconstitutional. Or, at least, that was the case until Scalia died.

        • Andrew Allison

          And where, pray tell, in the Constitution is the right to a State-funded college education enshrined? Who writes the laws (the state legislature in this case)? Now, if we were discussing Freedom of Speech, there would be a good argument for legal action against many colleges.

        • bottomfish

          I don’t think these foolish programs will be defended by invoking “Equal protection of the law.” I think the mechanism will be Title IX, which requires protection of women, minorities, and other disadvantaged groups from inequitable disparities in treatment, or insensitive treatment, by educational institutions. This is the basis for the sexual assault tribunals, for example.

      • Boritz


  • Blackbeard

    This is the problem with state and local government: They’re just not dependable purveyors of the Left/liberal/progressive party line. Much better to have everything run out of Washington.

  • Boritz

    “Legislators should generally be wary of interfering too heavily …”

    Of course. No one is advocating heavy interference. We just need appropriate intervention. Glad we’re in agreement.

  • Beauceron

    “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.”

    I am skeptical. The Left, with their control of the education system and media, are incredibly powerful now. More powerful in my opinion than mere legislators. Look, as just one example, of what’s going on in NC. It’s an awful lot of fuss over the bathroom rights of .3% of the population– but they even have very large corporations on their side, and in the long run NC will have to yield to them. If the Left decides to turn its ire on TN, they will be the ones thrown in the fire.

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