TN bill would end college diversity programs, preference - WSMV News 4

TN bill would end college diversity programs, preference for minorities

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One Tennessee lawmaker believes the time has come to end diversity programs and preference for minorities on college campuses and in other areas.

However, his plans are causing concern not only with some of his fellow lawmakers, but also with college students who feel the plan could stifle diversity at campuses across the state.

State Sen. Jim Summerville, R-Dickson, said his bill would allow people to be judged by their character, intelligence and hard work, but LGBT groups contend it does much more than that.

"Not only is it appalling, but I'm confused as to why. Austin Peay is an extremely diverse campus, and we embrace that," said Ryan Whipskey, with the Austin Peay State University Gay-Straight Alliance.

It might have been cold outside the Capitol Thursday, but the members of the GSA were steaming over Summerville's bill that would ban diversity officers on campus.

With signs and petitions, the students sought to gather awareness for the plan and momentum to defeat it.

"I love it here because of the diversity, and I would hate to see it go away," Whipskey said.

Summerville has introduced a series of bills he called the Civil Rights Initiative of 2013.

It would ban diversity officers on campuses, abolish any preferences given by universities to those of different races and ethnicities and prohibit the state from keeping any statistics based on race, gender or ethnicity.

"It's a little demeaning, I think, to classify people in those categories. They might wonder, 'Am I here because I'm any good, or am I here to fill a quota?' So I think it's time to let this go," Summerville said.

It has many students upset because they worry about the future of the diversity they love so much on campus.

Summerville said he believes that could happen in the short-term, but in the long-term it would have a different outcome.

"For a while we might see a little dip. I'm prepared for that. But we will see people preparing themselves to meet (the university's) requirements, and that has nothing to do with race, gender and ethnicity," Summerville said.

Summerville said he also doesn't believe the bill would impact the gay community at Tennessee colleges.

Right now, the plan has no House sponsor, but Summerville is confident he will find someone to carry it there even with the speaker's bill-filing limit.

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