UT says only private donations will fund LGBT pride center

The University of Tennessee Knoxville is using private funds to operate its LGBT pride center following last year’s decision by state lawmakers to strip state dollars from the Office for Diversity and Inclusion, reports the News Sentinel.

UT announced this week it has hired Bonnie Johnson, a 2013 graduate, to lead the pride center as its first full-time coordinator. Her salary of $41,000 will be paid for with private funds, said UT spokeswoman Karen Simsen.

Since 2016, the pride center has run strictly on private dollars after lawmakers approved a one-time diversion of $445,882 from the Office for Diversity and Inclusion to minority engineering scholarships.

In June, UT Knoxville Chancellor Beverly Davenport pledged a commitment to diversity and said she planned to hire a full-time pride center coordinator when asked how the diversity funds would be spent… Lawmakers reacted to Davenport’s pledge to reinvest in the pride center by threatening to introduce new legislation prohibiting state dollars from being spent there.

…The university now says that the former diversity funds will not be spent at the pride center.

“I can confirm that none of those funds are being used for the pride center,” spokeswoman Karen Simsen said in an email.

A complete budget for the pride center was not available Thursday, but Simsen said private funds will also be used for operating and programming.

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