UCW Executive Board statement on Sen. Jim Summerville's Anti-Diversity Bills

On January 9 and 10 of this year, in the very first days of the new legislative session, Sen. Summerville introduced a series of seven bills to systematically end all efforts to undo the legacy of Jim Crow and segregation in our state’s educational institutions, and furthermore to get rid of all efforts to promote diversity, equality, inclusion, and to guard against bigotry, prejudice, and oppression in our schools, colleges, and universities.

In a signature bill, Senate Bill 46 or SB0046, he wants to outlaw having anyone on any campus who, “promotes diversity, equality, and inclusion,” who assures “implementation of…[and] monitoring of compliance with” two titles of the Civil Rights Act, Title IX protecting women, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act.” SB0046 seeks to prohibit the existence of even a single person who addresses charges of “discrimination and violations of federal laws, state laws, and institutional policies.”

Sen. Summerville and any of his colleagues who support his efforts want to turn back the tide of justice and equality to before the Civil Rights Movement, and deny even the most basic protections to students and workers of color, women, people with disabilities, and anyone discriminated against because of their age–in short, anyone who isn’t just like him.

Moreover, as attacks on public services and the public sector ramp up, especially against our schools and universities, attacks on all of us who make the public sector work will, too. Sen. Summerville’s bills are part and parcel of this trend, making our workplaces most vulnerable to discrimination and prejudice, and denying us even the small measures of recourse that we had already.

Well, to Sen. Summerville and his clique, we say: we want something different. United Campus Workers stands for a workplace where everyone is respected, has due process and rights, and which is free from discrimination, bigotry, and prejudice against anyone, and we’ve enshrined that in our Campus Worker Bill of Rights. We pledge to stand up for ourselves, our coworkers, the students and the public we serve–to stand up for one another–in the face of so much injustice.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. said: "...I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

In the end what we want is a Tennessee for every Tennessean, not just the Good Ol’ Boys, and will oppose at every turn Sen. Summerville’s attempts or anyone else’s that stand in the way of democracy, equality, and justice.

-The United Campus Workers Executive Board