We are writing as concerned students of the University of Tennessee to express our opposition to SB 1608/HB 2378 and SB 2493/HB 2450.
SB 1608/HB 2378 demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of its sponsors of the purpose and structure of the current student fees allocation system. The current system exists to enable small organizations of dedicated individuals to bring thought-leaders, researchers and cultural icons to campus for the benefit of the entire student population. Meanwhile, many large organizations exist to provide programming for their own members, which they currently fund through dues systems. This is one reason why the allocation of student fees based on membership levels will be an unworkable system that reduces the overall quality of the university experience.
Further, we feel that appropriation of student fees based solely upon membership violates both the First and 14th Amendments to the Constitution by denying an equal voice to the underrepresented and to minorities on campus. Small groups, ranging from the Issues Committee to the Society of Physics Students, from Christian student organizations to our organization, the University of Tennessee Chapter of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network, will be disproportionately harmed. State Sen. Stacey Campfield has publicly claimed that he believes in a diversity of opinion; however, SB 1608 stifles any but the majority opinion.
SB 2493/HB 2450 eviscerates the ability of the University of Tennessee to function as the flagship university of this state, and it affects all other publicly-funded Tennessee universities similarly. A university is meant to exist as a marketplace of ideas; denying access to ideas from a diversity of speakers would undermine the comprehensive education that Tennessee's state institutions aspire to offer. We are fully confident that our best faculty and our brightest students will not select or remain at a university that cannot bring speakers to its campus.
In closing, the proposed legislation represents an inappropriate overstep on the part of the Tennessee legislature. The university already has mechanisms in place that would enable students to make these changes if we wanted them. These changes have not yet taken place because we do not want them.
The students of the University of Tennessee Chapter of the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network: Patrick McKenzie, president; Louis Varriano, vice-president; Hayley Brundige; Troy Williamson; Corey Puckett; Julia Ross; Elizabeth Stanfield; Will Clifft; Adrian Vivar-Alcalde; Anagha Uppal; Lindsay Lee; Kenna Rewcastle.
The Roosevelt Chapter of UTK may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.