A campus without the TRECS, student health, the UC, guest speakers or Volapalooza – this is the future students face should Sen. Stacey Campfield's most recent bills pass through the Tennessee legislature.
Senate Bill 2493 would prohibit the use of institutional revenue, which includes student activity fees, to pay for visiting or guest speakers at public institutions in Tennessee. This motion comes on the heels of Campfield's Jan. 15 Senate Bill 1608, which proposed the distribution of student fees in proportion to an organization's membership.
Averaging $300 per semester, student activity fees are used to fund TRECS, the Student Health Center, counseling and other campus services, including The Daily Beacon. About 5 percent of student fees are allocated for programming and distributed by the University Programs and Services Fee funding board. The board is chaired by the Student Government president and comprised of students appointed by the president.
Claiming a heavy bias toward liberal programming, Campfield asserted the necessity of "equality" in allocating funding. Every student, he believes, should directly control the share of student fees they pay. These fees should only go toward organizations and services they wish to support or access.
"People shouldn't be forced to pay for speakers they find offensive, be it left or right-leaning," Campfield said in a phone interview with the Beacon on Tuesday. "And we should leave it up to the individual to decide how they want to spend that money."
For Grant Davis, senior and SGA Student Services Director, "equality based upon percentage is not equality."
With regard to SB 2493, Davis finds Campfield's proposal even more objectionable, seemingly an extension of Campfield's criticism of Sex Week last year.
"He is focusing his attention on one event in particular that he feels leans a little too far off the spectrum," Davis said. "Even if you do not like something that's being said, you do not have the right to take away someone else's right to say what they want to say."
In response, SGA launched two petitions on Feb. 9 rejecting both SB 1608 and SB 2493: one limited to registered students and faculty in Tennessee public schools, and one open to the public via Change.org. At time of print, 888 students had signed the student petition. Both petitions will be sent to Tennessee legislators.
The bills, in fact, may pose constitutional violations.
"Most speakers are brought as co-curricular enrichment, and even speakers who don't provide an expert lecture can still enhance the student experience by sharing their experiences," said Jacob Clark, senior in College Scholars and Sex Week co-founder. "But it would seem that Stacey Campfield has, along with other legislators lately, made it a habit to propose legislation that they know to be ineffective and potentially unconstitutional."
Lisa Dicker, SGA senator and president of Central Programming Committee, admitted she fears that allowing the state legislature to censor one student organization may lead to more restrictions.
"Once you take the right of the students to dictate where the funding goes away from the students," Dicker said, "you have people 300 miles away making those decisions for them, which shouldn't be the way that it is done."
Davis shares Dicker's fear.
"If the state legislature wants to restrict student fees because of one event, what're they going to restrict next?" Davis said. "What's that next step? What else will we have to face that will inhibit the way students go about their lives on campus?"
Still not calendared for committee review, the bills remain subject to modification. In the meantime, SGA hopes to educate students about the use of their mandatory fees. One demonstration currently under consideration would close all student-fee funded services for a day, proving their ubiquity.
Davis likened student fees to taxes. Whether a student exercises in TRECS or attends a concert, those fees are being tapped.
"No matter what," Davis said, "a student is using almost every dime of their student fee money in some capacity."
Calling students the sole "stakeholders" in the future of student fees, Dicker emphasized the importance of maintaining complete jurisdiction.
"If we want to be able to keep our voice in where our $300 per semester goes," Dicker said, "then we need to sign this petition, become actively involved and educate ourselves on how the process works."