It's a crisp Monday afternoon on campus. Having just gotten out of your late afternoon class, you find you have a little bit of that rare thing known as "free time" and decide to just walk.
As you walk down the long hall of HSS, something catches your eye: nothing.
There are no flyers for upcoming events decorating the magnetic bulletin boards. Outside, there are no signs of posters, chalking or even the random people hand-billing on Pedestrian. Now that you think about it, there have been no events for the entire academic year: no distinguished guest speakers; no cultural dance acts; no screenings of your favorite free movies in the UC; no big concert with which to celebrate the last day of classes; no diverse perspectives from various religious leaders; absolutely nothing.
Guess you are just going to have to hang out in your dorm room, or even worse, study.
Why is the campus ambiance drastically different from that of last school year? What kind of horrible, dystopian university has UT become? Though this may sound a bit extreme, this is the reality we face if the two bills concerning student fees, SB1608 and SB2493, pass in the Tennessee legislature.
On the surface it seems this may only affect guest speakers, which is bad enough. But if we look a little deeper, this could drastically affect the whole atmosphere of our campus.
The funds from these student activity fees go into events mentioned above, as well as some of the most well-known events on campus this year and in past years including guest speaker Michio Kaku; Mystical Arts of Tibet; any Vol Night Long; Take Back the Night; the Study Abroad Fair; Clifton M. Jones Leadership Conference and MLK Jr. Day of Service; and Black History Month events.
SB2493 specifically would not allow any Ivy League speakers, graduation commencement speakers who would have to be paid, funding for travel, hotel rooms, meals while they were on campus, and even advertisement for the event.
It seems this withdrawal of fee money could even threaten the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis, or NIMBioS, that is located here at UT which integrates the research of math and biology in the areas of infectious disease, food supply and systems modeling.
NIMBioS received a grant from the National Science Foundation, part of which involves hosting conferences, workshops and lectures involving bringing in guests and guest speakers. Obviously, the $35 million institute could suffer greatly if its main source of funding was threatened.
While the SJR0626 resolution by the university is an admirable attempt to compromise between the various suggestions for student fee allocation, it is not quite realistic.
Let's be honest, we know ourselves – as students, we are always out to get the biggest bang for our buck. This means we want to pay the cheapest amount of money and get the most out of it.
So if it comes to the option of paying a little bit extra for student activities, especially programs, a lot of students are not going to pay it. Not because they wouldn't enjoy the programs or benefit from them, but simply because they do not want to pay for it or do not believe they can afford it.
And what if a student does not pay the student activity fee and then later in the year discovers there is an event in which they are interested, but they have not paid for it – do we turn someone away who wants to learn about something new?
In addition to all of this, there is no feasible way UT can be a Top 25 university if we cannot even pay for guest speakers.
The bills SB1608 and SB2493 are going to be heard at the Senate Education Committee Meeting today at 3:30 pm.
Do not let the aforementioned lifeless campus become a reality. There is still time. Call your representatives. Email them. Tell others to do so. And after the results of today, don't stop the conversation.
Victoria Knight is a senior in microbiology and a staff columnist for the Daily Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Brandon Darr is a sophomore in linguistics. He can be reached at email@example.com.