Sex week and state senators: TTU caught in the crossfire?

I am very grateful for Knoxville, Tenn. It has a great library, tons of delicious and exotic food, and a lot of the plays and movies that we simply can’t bring to Cookeville. They once had Nightwish there! All the way from Finland! And it’s not an unreasonable distance away from us. I’m quite fond of Knoxville.

But, sometimes, Knoxville can infuriate me. Sometimes, it’s UTK. Sometimes, it’s the traffic. Most of the time, it’s the city’s state senator Stacey Campfield. He is the author of such unfortunate legislation as the “Merry Christmas” bill, the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, and Senate Bill 0132, which ties the amount of welfare a family can receive to their child’s performance in school. That’s not stressful or harmful to the child AT ALL. (kumorisushi.com) Give me a break. Seriously, rolling my eyes this much is giving me migraines.

The latest bee in Stacey Campfield’s bonnet is Sex Week, hosted by the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. This year marks the second annual occurrence of Sex Week, a weeklong series of panels and activities educating students and the community about healthy sexual relationships, regardless of orientation. It’s a wonderful occurrence and a boon to the students in our eastern neighborhood. To be honest, I think we should follow suit and have our own TTU Sex Week!

Apparently enraged, however, that last year’s legislative pressures have not deterred UTK student groups from holding Sex Week, Senator Campfield has decided to take measures into his own hands. On February 5, he submitted Senate Bill 2493, which would prohibit the use of institutional revenues, including student fees, to pay for visiting or guest lecturers on university campuses. This still permits the hiring of temporary faculty who would teach classes. Campfield argues that he has the legal authority to write the bill as public schools receive funding from the State. Student fees, however, do NOT come from the State – how then, does he have the legal right to tell universities how to spend that money?

As reported by Huffington Post and the Knoxville News Sentinel, several people associated with Sex Week at UTK believe they are the deliberate targets of this bill. I’m inclined to agree, BUT – and it is a big BUT – this bill affects all public universities in Tennessee, including TTU. I am not convinced that Senator Campfield or the University of Tennessee system have looked up from their political revenge match long enough to spare a thought for the rest of the state.

What about Tennessee Tech University in little ol’ Cookeville? Well, we can say farewell to the great names our CenterStage program has brought – including Maya Angelou and Eve Ensler, all departmental guest lecturers, and any guests sponsored by student organizations using SOLO money. Whether or not the SOLO concert itself would become illegal, I do not know, but highly suspect that it would. I urge you, Tech students, faculty, and staff, to therefore stand up against this legislative bully. Remind him and the whole state capital that TTU is a valuable part of this state and that we will not sit idly by while lawmakers compromise our education.

Stacey Campfield and his bill are currently cooling their heels in committee. Personally, I hope the bill dies there and Senator Campfield is forced to re-evaluate the maturity and gravitas required by his position. Targeting universities for engaging in the transmission of ideas that one individual finds distasteful is morally reprehensible, immature, and undeserving of authority. Senator Campfield’s behavior leads me to believe that Sex Week causes him to pace uncontrollably in his bedroom, thinking, “How dare people have sex for fun and not be divinely punished with diseases or abusive partners!”

Grow up, Senator Campfield, or get out of our state legislature.