University of Tennessee students are urging lawmakers not to dictate how their student fees are used after the controversy surrounding Sex Week, a campuswide series of lectures, games and events held earlier this month.
Student representatives from UT-Knoxville gave legislators a petition signed by 3,501 students stating their belief that they should be free to decide how student fees are used. They urged lawmakers not to take up two bills filed by state Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, that they said would make it harder for student-run organizations to put on events and bring in off-campus speakers.
"This is something that affects not only the University of Tennessee. It affects every other public institution," said Rachel Cross, an Oneida senior studying political science and sociology. "There are over 3,500 voting students at the University of Tennessee who disapprove of this action."
Copies of the student petition, as well as a second petition signed by 500 non-UT supporters, were printed for all 132 state lawmakers, a process that took more than six hours to complete and filled nearly 11,000 pages. Six members of the Student Government Association's government affairs committee piled those copies and themselves into a GMC Yukon after finishing classes late Monday morning to make the deliveries in person.
The students said they believe Sex Week has been misrepresented. While the focus at the state Capitol has been on events such as a drag show and prophylactic scavenger hunt, the series also included lectures promoting abstinence and religious views of sex.
"It seems much less controversial on campus than it is in Nashville," said Charles Blalock, a Sevierville senior studying business analytics and international business.
The petitions do not target a resolution pending in the Senate, which has been described as a compromise worked out between lawmakers and UT administrators. The students hope lawmakers will agree not to take up Campfield's bills if that resolution passes.
But the students' time in Nashville was brief. A few minutes past 4 p.m. -- just long enough to distribute all 132 copies and meet with a handful of lawmakers -- they piled back in the Yukon for the drive back to Knoxville and classes on Tuesday.