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A Tennessee state senator has proposed legislation that would drastically cut funding for diversity programs at public universities.
The proposal, the Civil Rights Initiative of 2013, would save money by laying off “diversity officers,” removing affirmative action from the university admission process, and barring the state from tracking statistics based on race, ethnicity, and gender.
The bill’s author, Senator Jim Summerville (R-Dickson), told Campus Reform on Tuesday he believes these programs are no longer necessary.
“Now the door [to high education] is open to everybody,” Summerville stated.
“All you do is work hard, present the qualifications, and you can do anything in our country.”
Summerville cited the need to cut unnecessary programs in order to combat the rising cost of tuition at Tennessee’s public universities.
“Our college tuitions are going through the roof already and we’re paying someone [diversity officers] to do what is essentially unnecessary because everyone is welcome at our colleges and universities and everyone knows that,” he explained.
Summerville said he believes the college admission process should be based on the qualification of the candidate rather than race or ethnicity.
“Everytime we create a preference or a so-called protected group, we’re discriminating. Everybody outside that preference can’t apply,” Summerville said. “[W]e’re all simply, gloriously American and created equal.”
Sean Wright, a member of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville’s Cultural Attractions Committee and student, told Campus Reform he opposes the bill because he believes it would degrade the level of diversity on public campuses.
“I think these programs are necessary so that we can ensure diversity at our campuses,” said Wright.
But student Senator Charles Marczynski of the University of Tennessee-Chattanooga said he believed the legislation would level the playing field for all students.
“I think it’s unfair to favor someone based just on their race, it should be mainly based on the quality of their work instead,” he said.
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