Threatening Sex Week dangerous for open discussion

By Adam Mathieu, COLUMNIST
On March 31, 2014

 

Students at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville almost saw their choice of having lectures that broach topics more than what is discussed in the classroom limited, which could have had detrimental effects on the ability to promote student awareness on various topics.

Specifically, the students’ right to hold future Sex Week events were at stake as State Senator Stacey Campfield introduced bills that would prohibit the use of college funds for speakers unrelated to official classes and require each speaker have a variety of viewpoints rather than focus on one topic, such as those discussed at Sex Week.

Now Campfield wants students to have the option to opt out of paying activity fees that support “questionable” events, a measure University of Tennessee System President Joe DiPietro is pushing to the state Senate.

Events such as Sex Week at universities are all the more necessary, as sex education in grade school is already more of a warning against sex than a true conversation of human sexuality. This limited sex education and the potential sexual situations that may arise when entering university life make campus discussions critical to
student development.

The events, planned and paid for by students, are meant to be a chance for students to engage in serious lectures focusing on topics such as sexuality and relationships and includes entertaining events such as drag shows and condom fashion shows.

Events similar to what University of Tennessee has done with Sex Week are similar to USF events, only there are no lawmakers trying to limit those that are sexually themed.

Less than two weeks ago, P.R.I.D.E. Alliance held a drag show in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) Ballroom. Earlier this month, USF’s of Alpha Kappa Delta Phi and Chi Upsilon Sigma sororities held a discussion on oral sex on campus.

Campfield believes students are already paying too much for tuition and should not be paying for events such as Sex Week or speakers they disagree with.

Aside from trying to limit Tennessee students from wanting to have an open forum to discuss sex, Campfield wants to limit the future of students’ exposure to non-academic related speakers.

Many USF lecturers don’t relate to official classes, something Campfield’s bill would have required for Tennessee schools. When Bill and Giuliana Rancic visited USF in 2012 as part of the University Lecture Series, a program that’s motto is “speak freely,” they spoke on topics such as infertility, breast cancer and how relationships work.

While these speakers were not connected to a class on campus, their talk filled the MSC Ballroom with students and opened the floor for important discussions.

Campfield argues that students should not have to pay for speakers they disagree with. By saying this, Campfield seems to forget that there is no such thing as universal agreement on lecture topics, as students will naturally find some speakers more interesting than others.

It is important to have speakers discussing issues students may not run into during their time in classes, since it gives students a chance to remember they do more than float from class to class and can address personal issues such as sexuality and relationships.

Though Campfield’s limiting efforts may be an effort to improve the school, it may actually hurt the students by limiting their exposure to unique voices and events that are important, even if they are not for everyone.

If USF can have such events and speakers not based on courses, then it’s curious what Tennessee legislature’s considerations would mean for schools in Tennessee and what waves it can have elsewhere.

Adam Mathieu is a sophomore majoring in studio art.

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