The Pride Center at the University of Tennessee has been defunded by that state’s Legislature. Also defunded: several inclusion and diversity initiatives at the Knoxville campus. Law-based targeted attacks on marginal populations are not atypical, but they are rarely done with this level of deliberate organizational precision.
In response, a collection of alumni have organized to push back against the ruling. The collective has pledged to raise approximately $3 million to combat legislative-based discrimination, to protect and endow the UT Pride Center, and to safeguard its status for the future. The current Atlanta branch of the fundraising campaign is headed by Joe Bechely and Alex Wan, who will host a fundraiser at their home on the Thursday of May 3, from 6:30-8:30 pm. Possible matching grants will be announced.
Present projected participants include (but will not be limited to): Ken Britt, Mark Clark, Benjamin Andrew and Bill Golden, Chad Goldman, LeeAnn Jones & Becca Sherrill, Troy Murray, Ed Patterson, Jim Schwab, Kyle Neil Spaull, Jon Tate, and Kyle Williams. Additionally, Dean Melanie Wilson of UT’s College of Law will make an appearance. So will community leader and Atlanta radio host Melissa Carter.
As communications professional Drew Plant said, the goal for the event (and for the protection of the Pride Center) is to build “an inclusive place for UT LGBT students and to prove to the Tennessee Legislature our commitment to diversity and inclusion.” According to NBC News, an estimated $300,000 has already been raised by almuni.
“There is no ‘ask’ related to attending this,” said Plant, “ours is a long game.”