A bill to address requirements related to “divisive concepts” at Tennessee’s public colleges and universities is expected to be discussed in the Tennessee Senate and House on Wednesday.
The bill will require public higher education schools to conduct campus climate surveys of faculty and students every two years regarding students’ comfort level with speaking freely on campus.
“This legislation is an effort to ensure that our public universities’ incredible diversity efforts are not undermined by an initiative that seeks to further alienate Tennesseans,” said Rep. Ron M. Gant, R-Piperton, who carries House Bill 2670 for President Cameron Sexton. “We reject the formation of concepts that attempt to cast a shadow over groups of people due to factors beyond their control. The divisive concepts we seek to address may sound familiar.
Rep. Charlie Baum, R-Murfreesboro, compared it to a bill passed regarding K-12 education last year and said it would be good to revisit the impact of that bill.
The bill was amended by the House Higher Education Subcommittee to require an investigation into any reported violations.
Rep. Yusuf Hakeem, D-Chattanooga, asked if the bill was an attempt to remove “critical race theory” from Tennessee colleges and universities, but Gant answered a succinct “no.”
“No one is opposed to free and open discussion of concepts, history, all issues,” said Rep. Mark White, R-Memphis. “That’s where the pendulum is swinging so far where you can’t have a free and open discussion because there’s a movement to say you’re wrong, we’re right.
“Let’s not try to indoctrinate our young people into a certain belief because that’s what I believe or you believe.”
The House version of the bill is expected to be discussed by the Education Administration Committee on Wednesday while the Senate Version is on the agenda of the Senate Education Committee.
“Do we have any data that showing a concept of this nature, dealing with divisive concepts, etc., is a best practice across the country?” Hakim asked. “Has this been studied? Is this an emotional reaction to the concept of critical race theory? »
Gant again replied “to my knowledge, no”.
The bill would prevent schools from providing mandatory training that includes divisional concepts or making it mandatory to accept any divisional concept in order to take a course, which Gant explained as “compulsory adherence to subjects of dividing”.
“It’s about ensuring that our universities remain places of open dialogue,” said Rep. Mark Cochran, R-Englewood, without “…forced agreement to an idea. You can always debate and talk about the ‘negative impact.
Rep. Antonio Parkinson, D-Memphis, questioned whether open dialogue in a course on slavery would be considered outside the lines of this bill.
“Hopefully we can actually come to…stay in a space where we can freely discuss all of these issues,” Parkinson said. “Because that is what will bring healing to our country. I want to make sure no one intentionally feels uncomfortable.