Alumni seeks to privately fund the LGBT student center at UT-Knoxville

An effort is underway to fully fund operations at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville’s LGBT student center without government support. The first official event will take place February 1st in Nashville.

Dubbed “Vol Means All” the campaign kick-off will feature a visit from UT Chancellor Beverly Davenport.

Chad Goldman, a UT alum who was born and raised in Nashville, is coordinating the plan. The California resident was struck by the Tennessee legislature’s decision to defund the Pride Center at UT-Knoxville for one year.

“I thought it was such a wonderful thing that there was a pride center at all,” he said. “There wasn’t one when I was there and had there been one it really would’ve helped me a lot so I was so excited to hear that they had one.” When it was defunded, he felt called to action. In response, he hosted a Super Bowl party/fundraiser a couple years ago with proceeds directed toward the center.

“We were able to raise a good chunk of money that we just handed over to the pride center,” he said. “And I guess it got some attention at the leadership level at UT.”

A member of the advisory board for the College of Arts & Sciences at UT, Goldman met with Chancellor Davenport subsequently where he was asked to lead a fundraising effort that would permanently endow the LGBT center with private funding. Removing its dependency on government funding would allow the center to operate without political interference.

“I want to be sure that everyone knows this is a non-partisan initiative,” Goldman said. “It has nothing to do with politics. It just has everything to do with making sure that LGBTQ and questioning students have a place where they can go on campus at UT. It’s a time in your life when you’re really just trying to figure out who you are.”

The fundraising event on February will take place at a private residence on Sweetbriar Avenue in Nashville. Interested attendees are asked to email Chad to RSVP:

“The chancellor will come and speak along with other people from the pride center and we’ll just talk about what’s going on and what we need to do, and how doable it is really to achieve security for the center,” he said.

Organizers figure a $3 million investment will permanently endow the LGBT center and, while every dollar raised will go toward the current needs of the center, all additional funds will be directed toward that endowment.

Goldman believes this event will be the first of many throughout the state and the nation. “Nashville has a large alumni population but it’s also home of government in Tennessee,” he said, “and a lot of influencers there. I’m from Nashville, I grew up there. Obviously it’s a central place in the state to be able to broadcast this message out. But the plan going forward is to have a multi-tiered approach to the fundraising, one of which is to have more events like this. Regionally based, there are other cities across the US where there are clusters of UT grads who would definitely want to help, places like DC, Chicago, Atlanta, Raleigh, Nashville, Knoxville obviously. There are other smaller markets too that we’re looking at.”





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