Notice the group of Tibetan monks walking around the UC last week? You may have first noticed their bright red and yellow robes, heard their chanting, or even walked past the room where they were housed and sneaked a peek at the multicolored sand mandala they spent almost 40 collective hours working on.
For the students who did come to "The Mystical Arts of Tibet," whether practicing Buddhists or not, the general appraisal deemed it a meaningful and culturally significant event. People repeatedly told us they would like to see more events of this nature.
One of the head monks gave three lectures throughout last week, and though they were not at all political, they would have been in danger in light of two bills, SB1608 and SB2493, proposed by State Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, regarding restriction of student fees.
As a member of the Cultural Attractions Committee, the committee that brought "Mystical Arts," we get funding from the University Programs and Services Fee Allocations Board, and we will be directly affected if the two bills are passed.
Though the purpose of our committee is to "provide high quality and culturally stimulating events at a relatively low cost" to UT students and faculty, we could no longer be in existence. The same goes for any organization that brings guest speakers, whether cultural, academic, religious, comedic, historical or artistic -- the list goes on.
No "balancing out" would be needed for these non-political speakers, and yet they would be eliminated. And that's a shame, though Campfield seems to not acknowledge that.
Another thing Campfield tends to forget is that college is supposed to be a place where you become open to new perspectives and experiences. Even if you may not agree with the views of a liberal speaker, there is still value in going to the lecture and understanding their way of thinking. Most likely if you are set in your beliefs, it is not going to change your mind, but it will perhaps help you to appreciate the other side better and see where it comes from.
When there is something we do not like in the real world, we cannot just tell it to go away because we disagree with it – that's not real life.
I could ramble on, but in the end I'm not really here to argue against the taking away of our student fees. It would probably be hard to find someone on this campus who would agree, if only because they frequently use the TRECS for exercise classes or hop on the T bus daily.
No, instead I am here to say that despite our disagreement with Campfield, we need to be respectful without being complacent.
He has a right to his opinion. If we take that away from him, then we are just as unconstitutional as he is. You have the chance to agree or disagree. And that's something we seem to get caught up in with the controversial issues.
Turn that outrage into a burning desire to not be complacent.
Currently, as a student body, we have not been. But props to SGA for the awesome petitions they have made – if you have not signed yet, do so.
In the heat of the moment, when things are just getting stirred up, it is easy to cry for change. Once you feel like defeat is imminent, giving up is easy. Especially as time passes, and warm weather comes, and we all think about what our plans are for summer instead of the ramifications of what eliminating student fees could do for students for years to come. The bills have not been voted on yet, but they could be scheduled to at any time. We must not sit down, and we must keep our voices strong.
To our administration, I also urge you to not give up on us. So far your support has been commendable – President DiPietro, I admire your sentiments in your interview last week when you stated "Great universities have exchanges of ideas, and we should be able to do that to further the education of our students as well as our research." Chancellor Cheek, I also appreciate you speaking out against the bills in the UT Faculty Senate Meeting two weeks ago.
No matter what happens, the one thing they cannot change is that we are the University of Tennessee. We have spawned the likes of Peyton Manning, Min Kao, Cormac McCarthy and Howard H. Baker, Jr. We have still managed to fill the third-largest stadium in the nation in consecutive losing football seasons. We consistently have students who come up with groundbreaking ideas, conduct high profile research and generally make things happen in the world.
These legislative bills can never take that away, but they can make that success a lot harder to accomplish. So don't stop, because we can't afford to. The future of UT as we know it depends on us.
Victoria Knight is a senior in microbiology. She can be reached at email@example.com.