UPDATE: On Monday night, the state House of Representatives voted 69-17 to approve a resolution that “condemns the organizers” of Sex Week at the University of Tennessee. The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, originally condemned “the administration of the University of Tennessee,” but was later amended to condemn only the organizers. Sex Week events will still go on as planned.
State Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville), with Reps. Jimmy Matlock (R-Lenoir City) and Susan Lynn (R-Mount Juliet), filed contemporary bills; Senate Bill 1608, that would require student fees to be proportionally distributed to school organizations based on membership. Senate Bill 2493 would also prohibit the use of institutional revenue to pay for any guest speakers.
Presently, the university uses student requests as the basis for funding.
While these bills do not directly attack the University of Tennessee Sex Week, the bills come after last year’s inaugural Sex Week drew controversy and resulted in the university withdrawing funding days before the event. Students fear that allowing these bills will lead to more restrictions on student organizations.
“We don’t want the General Assembly micromanaging the university,” said Briana Rader, senior in college scholars and one of the co-founders of Sex Week. “This is the government over-stepping.”
Student activity fees are used to fund campus services like the Student Health Center, counseling, TRECS and Volapalooza.
“These bills will not improve student programming or student life,” said Rader. “It’s an attack on all student organizations and will result in poor quality programming.”
Funds are allocated for programming and distributed by the University Programs and Services Fee Allocation Board. The funding board is composed of Student Government Association president and other students appointed by the president. The board is faculty advised. SGA responded with two petitions on Feb. 9 rejecting both bills.
One petition, open to student, faculty and staff, has reached 1,476 signatures. The other petition, open to the public via Change.org, has reached 213 signatures. Both petitions will be sent to Tennessee legislators.
While Campfield insist that the bills are not an attack on Sex Week and are to make funding distribution fairer, Rader believes otherwise.
“The motive behind these bills is power, like most things in society. Everything is a power struggle–the General Assembly and Campfield want more power over the university,” said Rader. “Campfield has a lack of respect for diversity and tolerance and can’t handle the university having programming for topics he may disagree with.”
Edited by Zach Dennis