The University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Office of Diversity recently released a holiday guide which raised more than a few eyebrows.
Many of the guidelines had an anti-Christmas sentiments, urging to “ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise” and cautioning that “holiday parties and celebrations should not play games with religious and cultural themes–for example, ‘Dreidel’ or ‘Secret Santa.'” Other examples seemed unnecessary or to be trying too hard.
Now the page contains three paragraphs:
As we enter the holiday season, please be mindful of the rich diversity of our campus community. Recognizing a wide variety of cultures and beliefs, we should note that people choose to celebrate in different ways and on varying days of the year.
While there are many joyous occasions and special opportunities to gather, employee participation in any celebration should always be voluntary. While it is inevitable that differences will appear in how people celebrate, everyone is encouraged to have an open mind and to approach every situation with sensitivity.
We are grateful for the many people, cultures, and viewpoints of our campus. We should celebrate our diversity not only during the holidays but also on every day of the year.
The damage has already been done, however, as state lawmakers are reconsidering defunding the office, as theBlaze reported Tuesday.
And, the holiday guide is not the only problematic example. State Rep. James Van Huss, who has introduced legislation to defund the Office of Diversity, pointed to others. He had advised defunding in light of a guide urging employees to use gender-neutral pronouns. That guide was also nixed.
In an interview with theBlaze, Van Huss framed the issue as oversight and constituent values:
“This in no way reflects the values of my constituents,” Van Huss told TheBlaze in an interview Tuesday afternoon.
Van Huss said he was not opposed to having a diversity office on the UT system’s campuses in general but referred to an earlier press release from his office that called for more oversight and less taxpayer money.
“We had been trying to draft something that would leave the office in place but bring more oversight. However, after this latest action, it is clear that this taxpayer-funded department in no way reflects the values of Tennesseans,” he said in a press release provided to TheBlaze. “First, it was Sex Week, then the Gender Neutral Pronouns, now these recommendations to ensure ‘holiday’ parties have nothing to do with Christmas. What else has the Office of Diversity been doing with our tax dollars?”
The university will not accept defunding without a fight. An emergency session was held on Tuesday by the faculty senate, which also stands by Chancellor Jimmy Cheek despite calls for him to resign over the guide. Two resolutions are expected, to allow the continuation of diversity efforts and to have the Board of Trustees resolve issues within the school rather than involving state legislators.
A Twitter response has also been sent out, where calls for Cheek to resign continue.
We took several steps to reiterate our commitment to diversity and inclusion while acknowledging recent missteps. https://t.co/bMg2GoN5LO— UT Knoxville (@UTKnoxville) December 8, 2015
To echo Van Huss, the issue is not having an Office of Diversity. The issue is that it has gone too far in abusing its power and state funding, and must be reigned in, once and for all.