Legislators critical of the upcoming Sex Week UT say University of Tennessee officials moved in the right direction by cutting state funding to the event. But they would like to go further.
Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said that UT’s withdrawal Wednesday of $11,145 in state funds previously allocated to the weeklong campus program on sex and sex behavior topics was “a half-step.” About $6,700 in student fee monies are still being channeled toward the events, and Campfield said that should be eliminated, too.
“Those fees are mandatory for all students,” he said. “I don’t think most parents and students who pay them want their money going to promoting this kind of thing.”
By Thursday, donations and contributions had largely made up the difference as word spread online about the controversy.
Campfield said the Senate Education Committee has asked that UT President Joe DiPietro and Knoxville campus Chancellor Jimmy Cheek appear before the panel to discuss Sex Week UT and UT policies on such events. Or, as Campfield put it, “Explain the academic merits of a seminar on oral sex.”
The senator said he hoped the DiPietro-Cheek appearance could be as early as Wednesday. After talking with Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, he said the date has not been set, but it should be before the event begins April 5.
A UT spokeswoman, however, said Friday that university officials have not received notification of such a request.
“At this point, it has not been indicated to us that we are expected to return (to the Senate Education Committee),” said Gina Stafford.
The committee previously approved UT’s proposed budget for the coming year after DiPietro appeared before the panel. The budget proposal was forwarded to the Finance Committee, the next step along the way in the legislative budget procedure.
Campfield has also asked that the Finance Committee withhold its approval of the budget plan pending the UT officials’ appearance before the Education Committee.
Rep. Bill Dunn, R-Knoxville, said UT officials made “a step in the right direction” by cutting funds for the program, but he also believes further steps are appropriate to prevent what could be seen as support for “a hook-up culture” that is harmful to society as a whole.
“They’re going to have to decide what they want on campus,” he said. “When you have an anything-goes attitude with sex, which Sex Week seems to be promoting, it’s not a big jump from anything goes… to crossing the line to criminality.”
Dunn noted that when he and state Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet, made speeches on the House floor criticizing Sex Week as offensive, legislators also had before them legislation to crack down on sex trafficking involving children.
Sex Week, he said, is “treating sex as something frivolous” when there are serious ramifications.
Campfield said Sex Week is also inappropriate because “young children can attend because they qualify as students.” Some students can be as young as 15 or 16 in some situations, he said.