The following is a brief new item published on the website of WATE-16 [http://wjhl.com/2015/12/07/university-of-tennessee-faculty-support-cheek-hall-on-workplace-holiday-party-guidelines/]:
“While lawmakers are calling for Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and Vice Chancellor Rickey Hall to resign amid controversy over University of Tennessee Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s workplace holiday party guidelines, the faculty senate said they support the chancellor and vice chancellor.
“The Faculty Senate said they will hold an emergency meeting Tuesday to discuss calls for resignation by Tennessee legislators over issues concerning the University of Tennessee Office of Diversity and Inclusion. Organizers said they will draft a resolution to send to University of Tennessee President Dr. Joe DiPietro.
“In a letter sent to Dr. DiPietro by Theresa Lee, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at the university and signed by 20 other department heads in the college, Lee said Chancellor Cheek and Vice Chancellor Hall have worked tirelessly to help make University of Tennessee a more welcoming and inclusive place for all students, faculty and staff and that the Faculty Senate supports their efforts.
“’Such an attack demonstrates the deep need for UT Knoxville’s initiative to respect and increase diversity and inclusion. Inclusion in this case asserts the willingness to welcome all traditions, and not to prioritize one over the other. A policy of inclusion serves the University and the State of Tennessee by welcoming and recognizing the talents and contributions of students, faculty, and staff of all religions and races. The Best Practices noted above are also entirely consistent with the First Amendment of the US Constitution, which refuses the establishment of a state religion. As a government entity, we firmly believe it is the duty of the University of Tennessee to stand for a position that recognizes no single religious observance over any other. We applaud Chancellor Cheek as he stands for diversity and inclusion.’
“In addition, a petition to support Cheek and Hall was signed by nearly 3,000 faculty, students and staff since Thursday. The Faculty Senate, Student Government Association and the University of Tennessee Knoxville chapter of the American Association of University Professors have all joined in the effort to rally support for the petitions.”
If you would like more detail on this controversy, please see Tyler Kingkade’s article for Huffington Post, “GOP Pressure Prompts University of Tennessee to Overhaul Holiday Party Guidelines”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/university-of-tennessee-holiday-parties_56671268e4b079b281902d15.