The Pride Center is an important community space for our students and a physical representation of our commitment to diversity and inclusion. The University of Tennessee values the support and resources the center provides members of our LGBTQIA community.
Since this summer’s enactment of Tennessee Public Chapter 1066, the university has worked to ensure that the Pride Center remains open. Staff members from the Office of the Dean of Students have met with Pride Ambassadors, members of UT Diversity Matters, student assistants, faculty, and staff to ensure that the good work continues. We have worked to establish trust and to build a mutual understanding of where our institution is and where we’d like to be.
Last week’s vandalism of a flag at the Pride Center is being investigated by UT Police. Such acts are not consistent with the values of our community.
The university recognizes that pride flags are symbols of self-identification, unity, and pride. We also know that several events over this past year, including the Orlando tragedy, prove our support and commitment are needed now more than ever.
We want to present the facts of this situation and correct recent statements that have deliberately misrepresented the words and actions of university administrators and staff.
The university did not issue a directive to take the Pride Center flags down.
No student was directed to remove the flags and, to our knowledge, no university employee has attempted to remove any flag or banner hanging on or near the Pride Center.
During a conversation last week, students were informed of the university’s sign policy, which prohibits exterior signs from being placed on any campus building. They were asked to consider ways to display the flags or honor the spirit of the flags that also comply with that policy.
We regret the timing of that conversation and acknowledge that it has had a negative impact on some in our campus community.
Facilities Services has enforced the sign policy many times over the past few years by requesting that departments remove banners and flags from their buildings. The administration will review that policy and ensure it is being enforced appropriately and consistently across campus. We will share information with our campus community when the review is complete.
The university has listened to the Pride Ambassadors and taken their input into account regarding Safe Zone training.
University administrators have been in discussion over the past few months with faculty, staff, and students, including Pride Ambassadors, about how best to continue Safe Zone training and remain in compliance with state law.
The university continues to explore options that allow us to make Safe Zone training available to our community. Conversations with Pride Ambassadors about how they can support these efforts will also continue.
The University of Tennessee values all members of our community.
The university is committed to supporting an environment in which tolerance, civility, freedom of expression, and responsible citizenship are integral parts of our learning experience.
We welcome all opportunities for open, collaborative conversation with our students, faculty, staff, and alumni.
Anyone who would like to provide feedback or is interested in participating in our continued discussions about issues that affect our LGBTQIA community can reach out to the Office of the Dean of Students at firstname.lastname@example.org or 865-974-3179.