Lawmakers and UT administrators reach Sex Week funding compromis

Lawmakers and UT administrators reach Sex Week funding compromise

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By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The University of Tennessee's president says policy changes could be coming to address lawmakers concerns over Sex Week. With this compromise, State Sen. Stacey Campfield is dropping his bills aimed at Sex Week that could have impacted other campus events as well.

Sex week organizers say the event promotes sexual health.

Concerned lawmakers say, in a resolution, Sex Week pushes a radical agenda on students but a compromise has been reached regarding the funding and both organizers and law makers say it's fair.

Campfield introduced legislation restricting use of student activity fees.

"Freedom of speech is fine but to force someone to pay for a speech they disagree with that's tyranny," said Sen. Campfield.

A Senate joint resolution was also presented reading, "Knoxville students and parents should have the right to not fund such a despicable event."

Concerned lawmakers pointed out in the resolution that other universities have allowed students to opt out of part of the student activity fee.

University president Joseph DiPietro responded to lawmakers in a letter, writing administrators will work to develop policy changes.

The letter reads: "I believe the result of our efforts will be a more transparent student activity fee system that respects the first amendment rights of student organizations to engage in a free and open exchange of ideas but also provides individual students the right not to fund student organization expression that is offensive to their personal beliefs."

The compromise caused Sen. Campfield to withdraw his legislation

"I think that they realized, 'Hey, if we are going to make these things mandatory for these type speech issues we should allow some people to opt out because it is offensive to them,'" said Sen. Campfield.

Sex Week founder Brianna Rader believes the compromise is fair.

"I'm glad that we reached a compromise and it's a better option than the extreme bills that Campfield was proposing," said Rader.

According to the president's office, recommendations will be made to the board of trustees but the board will have to approve any policy changes.

Sex Week co-chair Jacob Clark believes changes will be made.

"I think we'll see changes in how we document who gets money and how we apply for money and we'll see a more transparent process," said Clark.

Sex Week organizers say sex week will be on campus again next year. They also hope if students can opt out of paying for student activity fees they have the choice to opt of other fees as well.

Sen. Mike Bell who introduced the Senate Joint Resolution says he is glad university administrators are taking the resolution seriously.  Sen. Bell says if policy change isn't made the legislature would likely be proactive in filing legislation next session.

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