Diversity Matters banner signing 3-3-2016 Hodges library 02

On Thursday UT students signed a banner in Hodges Library supporting the Office of Diversity and Inclusion after a bill stripping it of its funding was passed by the Tennessee Senate Education Committee on Wednesday.

Actions have a tendency to speak louder than words, and the university’s words on certain topics may feel hollow or “just for show.” However, concrete policy changes and additions demonstrate an institute’s true intent.

Discrimination has long been directed toward the LGBTQ community. In order to protect the community members and hold perpetrators of violence — whether it be physical, emotional, etc. — accountable, the University of Tennessee has had and continues to have a duty to enact appropriate reactionary and precautionary measures.

Here is a look at proposed, passed and rejected policies that relate to the LGBTQ community.

Sept. 1996

A discussion was held in a Faculty Senate Executive Committee meeting on whether “‘sexual orientation’ should be added to (the) non-discrimination policy,” as well as the possibility of extending certain employee benefits to “‘life partners’ of UT Martin employees.”

No conclusion was reached, and the committee voted to privately discuss the matter in a letter addressed to the concerned party.

Feb. 1997

The Graduate Student Association signed and passed a bill to include the words “sexual orientation” in the university’s anti-discrimination clause.

The bill was then sent to the Student Government Association (SGA) and approved in March of the same year.

May 1997

Chancellor Bill Snyder vetoed the legislation, affirming that discrimination based on sexual orientation will not be tolerated but does not warrant an official policy.

Sept. 1997

Chancellor Snyder made a compromise with students to include sexual orientation in his personal statement regarding diversity.

Oct. 1999

Chancellor Snyder voiced his personal support of including sexual orientation in the university’s Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) policy. However, it was made clear that this was not an option and would not happen.

Oct. 2003

The Faculty Senate approved a resolution to encourage Chancellor Loren Crabtree to work toward including “sexual orientation” in UT’s non-discrimination policy.

Dec. 2005

“Sexual orientation” was included in the university’s Welcoming Statement used for job applications and advertisements.

Jan. 2006

“Sexual orientation” was added to the Equal Employment Opportunity/ Affirmative Action (EEO/AA) statement used for applications, advertisements, contracts, newsletters, publications, etc.

Feb. 2007

The SGA and the Graduate Student Senate passed a bill, giving the university one year to include both “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in UT’s non-discrimination policy.

Aug. 2007

The University of Tennessee officially added “sexual orientation” to its EEO/AA and non-discrimination statements.

Nov. 2007

The Faculty Senate passed a resolution to provide LGBTQ safe zone on UT’s campus.

Chancellor Crabtree expressed his support and began developing a task force to oversee the implementation of these safe zones.

Jan. 2008

“Gender identity” was added to the EEO/AA and non-discrimination statements.

Aug. 2008

More inclusive language regarding gender identity and marital status is suggested for new hire forms.

Changes include a discussion on the identification of sex and gender, as only male and female are options. As well as an addition of “domestic partner” for those in committed relationships that are unable to legally marry.

Feb. 2010

The OUTreach: LGBT & Ally Resource Center, referred to as the Pride Center, opened as an LGBTQ safe zone on campus.

May 2016

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion was shut down as a result of defunding, endangering the sanctity of the Pride Center as well.

Aug. 2016

The Pride Center reopened after receiving support from alumni.

Aug. 2021

The Pride Center was given a new location in the Student Union.

While it may take pushback from the students and various organizations on campus, inclusivity is attainable at the University of Tennessee. These are just a few of the policies, proposals and suggestions that UT has listened to and adopted throughout its history. A more in-depth look at the above-described changes can be found on the Pride Center’s website.

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