A resolution was passed in the state Senate on Wednesday instructing University of Tennessee administrators to alter the student activity fee allocation system to permit students to opt out of providing funding for events they find to be "controversial or objectionable."

The student activities fee, as it currently stands, is obligatory. Fees collected are then combined and distributed per the judgment of the University Programs and Services Fee Funding Board.

Drafted by Senate Government Operations Chairman Mike Bell, the resolution specifically targets Sex Week, stating the the program's subject matter is "offensive to many parents, students and citizens of the state of Tennessee."

The resolution states that while Sex Week has been promoted as a sexual health event, it actually serves to "thrust a radical agenda on the students of the University of Tennessee."

If the resolution is enforced, the president of the University of Tennessee will have to report to both the Senate and House education committees by Jan. 1, 2015, to discuss the implementation of this optional student fee system.

State Sen. Stacey Campfield, an active voice in the student fees debate, said further action is still necessary.

"It's a statement of opinion type thing," Campfield said Thursday in a phone interview with The Daily Beacon. "Resolutions don't have any force behind them, so I think we need to do something that will have some force of law."

Campfield, R-Knoxville, represents the seventh district and sponsored two bills also concerning student fees – Senate Bill 1608/HB2378, which advocated for distribution proportionate to organizational size, and SB2493/HB2450, which forbids the use of university fees to finance speakers on campus.

Both bills are scheduled for committee vote early next week.

Jacob Clark, a senior in College Scholars and co-founder of Sex Week, expressed disapproval of the resolution.

"Any action by government to restrict speech or advocacy is an example of poor policy," Clark wrote in an email Thursday. "While this resolution is certainly not as damaging to student programming as some of the current proposed bills would be, I am disappointed that the state legislature has wasted time combatting a valuable and popular student program."

UT President Joe DiPietro wrote a letter earlier this week to Rep. Matthew Hill, R-Jonesborough, and Senate Education Chairwoman Dolores Gresham warning against further condemnation of Sex Week.

"The attention focused on this matter by the General Assembly," DiPietro wrote, "is quickly reaching a point that will cause greater harm and damage to the long-term interests of the university than any programming that may occur as result of Sex Week."

 

RELATED LINKS

Senate bill 1608

Senate bill 2493

Campfield's bill could alter student group funding policy

Sex Week helps answer questions over student, state funding

SGA launches petition in response to Campfield's activity fees bills

Tennessee Capitol may condemn UT students

Sex Week organizers now legally condemned

'A dangerous precedent': Proposed activity fee bills have UT system schools worried