- Associated Press - Saturday, March 19, 2016

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - More than two dozen University of Tennessee faculty members have signed a letter calling on state lawmakers not to support funding cuts or limits on diversity programs.

The letter was signed by 28 faculty members and published online Friday, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported (https://bit.ly/1nWXHgJ).

The professors also urged campus leaders to implement “concrete actions” to promote diversity.

“We believe and know that UT can be a world-class institution, and we rely on our legislators to support, rather than undermine, our efforts as we strive to become a premier institution of higher education,” the faculty members wrote.

Sociology professor Michelle Christian said the letter is partially in response to a March 2 vote by the state Senate Education Committee to divert $8 million in funding from the Knoxville campus and limit the Office of Diversity and Inclusion to federal funding.

Several Republican lawmakers said they were upset by the office’s recommendations that gender-neutral pronouns be used on campus and that religious references be stripped at holiday parties and events on campus.

Last week, a bill started to advance in a state House subcommittee that would cut $100,000 in funding for specific diversity and inclusion initiatives at the university. The group hopes to add more faculty signatures before sending the letter to state lawmakers and university administrators, Christian said.

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Information from: Knoxville News Sentinel, https://www.knoxnews.com

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