As a gay alumni of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (UTK), Chad Goldman, 1993, was infuriated when he learned the LGBT Pride Center of his alma mater had been attacked by a homophobic state legislature and subsequently defunded.
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion, which included the LGBT Pride Center, had long drawn the ire of Republican lawmakers, but where requests that instructors be sensitive to students’ preferred pronouns merely annoyed them, “Sex Week,” a series of educational programs aimed at spreading awareness around sexuality, sexual assault prevention and sexually transmitted diseases was the last straw. The program, including all LGBT initiatives, was shuttered, leaving the campus of nearly 30,000 without any affirming supportive services.
The funds were re-allocated to scholarships for minority students.
Goldman and his husband, Brian Pendleton sprang into action and recently raised over $300,000 at a Nashville fundraiser, but now he’s going national with campaign to raise $3 million dollars. Next stop, Washington, DC.
The University’s chancellor asked to meet with him. She asked that they begin to officially fundraise for the Pride Center, to raise private money for an endowment.
On April 18, the Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Dean Theresa Lee, will speak at the fundraising event in Washington D.C.
“The leadership at the University is very much on board with having a diverse and inclusive environment,” Goldman says. “And even though I think the Pride Center should be funded with state money. I can either wait for them to change their minds, or we can stand up and do something and make sure there’s a place for these students to go for fellowship or advice,” Goldman said.
Almost every other school in the Southeastern Conference (SEC), has a statefunded LGBTQ Center of some kind.
Goldman admits that he’s come up against some potential donors who’ve said they wouldn’t give their money to prop up a state and institution they perceive as hostile to the LGBT community.
Goldman counters this by saying that his “perspective is we’re giving money to students because the state is hostile. These are the very people who need it the most. These are people who are isolated and this helps to give them a place that supports them.”
According to the DC Blade, State Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga), a lead sponsor of the State Senate version of the bill, accused the diversity office of being “very political and polarizing” and giving a “horrible reputation” to the university and the state.
“If they clean up their act, then I’ll focus my attention on something else,” USA Today Network Tennessee quoted him as saying. “But if that office continues to become very radical and polarizing, then I will of course focus my attention back on that to take that money away and apply it to something very useful instead of something very divisive,” he said.
Goldman says he loves his alma mater.
“I’m on the advisory board of the College of Arts and Sciences, I was there for a meeting recently and when I walked past the Pride Center, I was so excited and encouraged,” Goldman told the Los Angeles Blade.
“It was a place that afforded me incredible opportunity and served as a launching pad for my life. But, when I was there, before it was diverse, there was nobody to talk to and nowhere to go. If you were in a place trying to figure out your sexuality or gender, you had a very alone feeling. It makes it hard because you’re going through it alone” he said.
“It would have helped me tremendously to have had that resource. It would have made life a lot less challenging. Without the guidance and fellowship of the Pride Center, a lot of these young people will be facing issues related to sexual health, isolation, drug use, depression, and without support, these could derail your education,” he adds
“And that was the struggle I went through. I didn’t come out until after I left the university. I wish I could have come out there, but I didn’t feel like I could. Had there been something there for me, like the Price Center, it would have been a lot less tormenting,” Goldman says.
“Vol Means All” campaign event will be held in Downtown Washington, DC on April 18, 2018 from 6 to 8 PM. Location will provided upon RSVP to Chad@ChadGoldman.com,