Tennessee students, including members of the Vols football team, filled the stands in black t-shirts at the school’s basketball game on Saturday to protest the cutting of funds for the university’s diversity office.
Running back Alvin Kamara, tight end Jakob Johnson and linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin were among the students in the crowd with Kamara and Johnson both sending tweets using the hashtag #UTDiversityMatters.
— Alvin Kamara (@A_kamara6) March 5, 2016
The protest came after state lawmakers unanimously voted on Wednesday to strip the university’s diversity office. According to Adam Tamburin of The Tennessean, an amendment was added that “only federal funds will be expended” to support the UT Office for Diversity and Inclusion, and that state funds will no longer be contributed.
UT officials told Tamburin that the office receives zero federal funding, so the amendment could essentially be a death sentence unless a change is made before the final budget bill is passed in April.
In the second half of a 83-60 loss to Ole Miss, student protesters began a “UT diversity matters” chant before exiting the game together.
UT Diversity Matters crowd just executed its walk out at the basketball game, leaving this section nearly empty. pic.twitter.com/kkbfpR9LOW
— Dustin Dopirak (@TennesseeBeat) March 5, 2016
The decision to defund the diversity office came after a pair of posts on the office’s website created controversy.
In one, a column encouraged students and professors to use gender-neutral pronouns when requested. Another gave tips to “ensure your holiday party is not a Christmas party in disguise.” Both drew heavy criticism and were eventually deleted.
Prior to the cut, Tennessee spent about $5 million of the school’s annual $2.1 billion budget on diversity programming, according to Tamburin.