• Lillie Burke

UT’s Sex Week necessary, even without public funding

The University of Tennessee is no stranger to embarrassing news.

Because seriously, who can forget the Pi Kappa Alpha mishap or Kathie Lee and Hoda’s road show onto campus?

Just a few weeks ago, the university added another mishap to its growing list when university administrators removed $11,000 worth of funding to Sex Week at UT, an event starting Friday that organizers say was meant to foster academic conversations about sex, sexuality and relationships.

The defunding came after the Tennessee state General Assembly, led by Sen. Stacey Campfield, took issue with the event and issued an ultimatum remove state funding from the event or the lawmakers to remove money from their annual budget.

Now as a non-Vol fan, I relish flops the athletic department has a tendency to make, whether by first-round NIT losses or a new knack for losing seasons in football. But the real problem at hand isn’t missed that. It’s an administration that doesn’t keep promises to the most important group on campus – the students.

As the events surround Sex Week started to receive national attention, the university, who had previously issued a statement saying that they fully supported not only the event but the student organization behind the whole idea, disassociated themselves with  Sex Week at UT and complying with the state’s ultimatum.

Yes, the university was threatened by General Assembly to revoke approval of the already-passed budget. But prior to coverage by Fox News and the political outcry which followed, only a small number of people had expressed any negative feedback about the event.

Despite Campfield’s concerns of using state funding to corrupt the state’s youth, the events on the schedule actually cover topics typically considered helpful and healthy.

Now, I won’t argue that some of the events are shocking and perhaps a little inappropriate. Here’s looking at you, campus-wide scavenger hunt for a “golden condom.”

However, programs like free-HIV testing, a workshop on preventing sexual assault, discussions on abstinence and “concepts of virginity” and several panels on faith and sexuality is extremely appropriate topics for a public college.

For Belmont students, the latter type of discussions might even sound familiar. It should. Belmont’s own Sex and the Soul Week focuses on a lot of the same aspects and hosts some similar programs to UT’s version.

Like it or not, programs like UT’s Sex Week and our own Sex and the Soul week do more than what Campfield and the rest of General Assembly are willing to recognize.

Yes, we live in a culture where sex is taboo. And yes, not all of the events were as squeaky clean as some parents, alumni and pundits would have liked. But that doesn’t mean discussions around outlying factors of sex and its implications aren’t necessary.

 After all, the best way to keep a person safe is to give them the knowledge to do so.

 And starting Friday, that’s just what the students behind the event will continue to accomplish.

Following the de-funding, a PayPal fundraising campaign sprang up to help the event continue. Members of Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee, the group responsible for  Sex Week at UT,  took to social media to get the word out about the financial need. And it worked.

On March 21, organizers announced that they had reached their fundraising goals to replaced the revoked money with the support of private donors and help from the university’s Central Programming Council. Despite the negative media attention, threats from General Assembly and a university that backed-tracked its support, the event will carry on as planned with the same goal to educate students, not pander to lewd curiosity.

It’s something any university should be willing to recognize.

Managing editor Autumn Allison is a junior journalism major.

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