It’s Sex Week at UT.
From HIV testing to a panel on body image and the legality of sex work, students have a range of opportunities to take part in. While the annual event is funded this year, primarily through student programming fund, allocated through SPAC (Student Programming Allocation Committee), funding for events next year is uncertain.
After a report called for changes to SPAC, the UT Board of Trustees dissolved the group and put the administration in charge of the programming funds, paid by an optional student fee, of which about 80% of UTK students subscribe to.
At one of their first events Monday was a panel on legal issues and sex, including intellectual property rights, contracts for sex workers, and more.
Joan Heminway, University of Tennessee Distinguished Professor of Law and Faculty Advisor for SEAT, the organization that puts on Sex Week, said she sees value in the programming.
“From the very beginning, our students have been very clear that they wanted to bring speakers to campus that are people who can educate young people who are experimenting things in the area of sex as well as other things alcohol, drugs, etcetera,” she said.
Heminway said for years she’s advised students to have a backup plan for funding. She hopes the student dollars will continue to support valuable student programming but believes changes by the UT Board of Trustees “come very close to the line” of infringing student’s first amendment rights.
Megan Henley, a SEAT co-chair, believes the intent of the change was to stop Sex Week. While she’s hopeful about SEAT working with “whatever system that’s thrown at us,” she said they’ll fundraise to meet the needs of Sex Week.
“We’ve always been battling bad p-r (public relations), every year. This year we just had a specific report about us released. This was another, let’s get it done, we know what some people think about us, but we have a lot of support on campus, so we know we can get this done,” she said.
UT President, Randy Boyd, has pledged his support for students’ first amendment rights. Boyd even sat through the legal panel discussion Monday.
Henley said Monday their requests for funds have been put for good use.
“I think the most common misconception people have is what are events are and what takes place at them and what we are requesting money for. When we requested SPAC money, it wasn’t like to have a party or recruitment event or barbecue or something.”
Monday, the University was unable to provide any new details about the new programming funding model.