With a mission of fostering a “comprehensive and academically-informed conversation about sex, sexuality, and relationships,” students and faculty at the University of Tennessee’s Knoxville campus organized Sex Week, scheduled to run from March 2-7th of this year.
The event, featuring speakers, panels, and parties all themed around sexuality, was organized by Sexual Empowerment and Awareness Tennessee (SEAT), an on-campus group at University of Tennessee. But before you get too excited — state legislators were furious at the group for organizing the event, and they voted yesterday to pass a non-binding resolution condemning them.
State Representative Richard Floyd of Chattanooga sponsored the resolution, which called the event “atrocious,” and “an outrageous misuse of student fees and grant moneys.” The joint resolution passed the Tennessee Assembly 69-17. This isn’t the first time that the Tennessee Legislature has attacked SEAT and Sex Week. Last year, the University of Tennessee pulled the bulk of funding for Sex Week after pressure from lawmakers, but students were able to keep the event alive with student activity fees.
New legislation that is pending in the House, though, could prevent future Sex Week events on the university’s campus. According to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the pair of bills would restrict college campuses from using student activity fees to hire guest speakers, and require the student funds be doled out proportionally according to the number of people in an organization. The Times Free Press called the pair of bills “retaliatory,” and pointed out that only 21 cents per student at University of Tennessee were spent on Sex Week.
The sponsor of the bill hasn’t offered much in the way of justification for the resistance to the event, other than that it “drags the UTK brand through the mud.” To me, though, it sounds like Rep. Richard Floyd and the bill’s 28 co-sponsors are putting the sexual health of college students in jeopardy just to score a few political points.
It’s pretty clear, though, that the University of Tennessee needs to be talking about sex more. A study conducted by Trojan Condoms last year ranked UT near the bottom of their list of sexually healthy colleges. In 2008, the Guttmacher Institute also found that well over half of the pregnancies in Tennessee were unintended.
Hopefully, Sex Week will carry on beyond 2014, even as lawmakers attempt to eliminate sex-positive education.