Lawmakers outraged over a second annual “Sex Week” at the University of Tennessee have condemned the event’s organizers and threatened to eliminate funding for guest speakers at public institutions.
The March 2-7 campus event will feature relationship workshops, a sex trivia game, and discussions about pornography, transgender sexuality, and so-called “hookup culture.”
Last year’s inaugural event, which featured a lesbian bondage expert and drag show, so upset Rep. Richard Floyd (R-Chattanooga) that he introduced a nonbinding House resolution condemning the event and its organizers.
UT administrators dropped all state tax funding for the $25,000 event, which is sponsored by Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee, but that still wasn’t enough to placate Floyd, who this year introduced a nonbinding joint resolution to condemn Sex Week and its organizers.
"People in my district are fed up with the perversion,” Floyd said last week. “If those people who organize this thing want to have it, hey, let them get off campus. They can go out there in a field full of sheep if they want to and have all the Sex Week they want.”
But Floyd’s symbolic gesture wasn’t enough for state lawmakers, who have proposed a pair of bills in the Tennessee General Assembly that would dramatically alter the way student fees are allocated for guest speakers at all public institutions.
The UT event is funded through student activity fees that university officials said amounted to about 21 cents per student, in additional to about $5,500 in private funding.
An anti-Sex Week legislator said he regretted the changes could affect students at other schools, but he said lawmakers were not to blame if guest speakers were eliminated throughout the state.
"I'm sorry if [University of Tennessee-Chattanooga] students feel the impact on it, but they need to focus on where the cause of this is," said Sen. Todd Gardenhire (R-Chattanooga).
The first bill, which Gardenhire calls “the compromise,” would force public institutions to award funding for guest speakers based on the size of student organizations.
If that measure fails, Gardenhire threatened to drop “the hammer” – which would prohibit any institutional revenue sources, including student activity fees, from funding guest speakers at all public colleges and universities in Tennessee.
Gardenhire said both measures were intended to politically balance content that students pay for through fees collected by public institutions.
The student government president at UTC said tying fund allocation to group membership would dilute the diversity of campus programming and diminish educational opportunities.
"I believe that higher education should force you to challenge your views,” said Robert Fisher, president of UTC’s Student Government Association. “That's part of the experience. It's a part of intellectual honesty, giving yourself the chance to hear what you don't want to hear as well."
Watch this video report posted online by the Chattanooga Times Free Press:
[Image: A woman with a condom on her finger via Shutterstock]