published Saturday, March 16th, 2013

Nashville Notebook: UT criticized in Tennessee Senate over 'Sex Week'

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    Students walk across campus at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville in this 2005 file photo.

Get ready, University of Tennessee at Knoxville officials, the fire is coming fast and furious from social conservatives and at least one state lawmaker following Fox News Radio's airing of a story about students' upcoming "Sex Week."

The April event, funded to the tune of nearly $20,000 through university money and student fees, features a lesbian bondage expert and a campuswide hunt for a "golden condom," according to a story on the conservative website Campus Reform, from which Fox News Radio got wind of the matter.

In a posting on his website, Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, said, "I just sent this letter to my fellow members of the education committee.

"After reading this article ... and another in FOX NEWS verifying this same story, I think it is well in order for us to reconsider our actions [passing the UT budget on Wednesday] and would like to make that motion so UT can either verify or deny publicly these incredible allegations.

"If you have any problem with my making that motion I ask that you contact me so I can understand your reasoning," wrote Campfield, a persistent critic of the UT, which is in his district.

It was also enough to have former state Sen. David Fowler, president of the Family Action Council of Tennessee, raising Cain in his weekly newsletter.

"We doubt that many UT Knoxville alums -- and Tennessee taxpayers -- want their support of UT to pay for its first-ever 'Sex Week,'" wrote Fowler, who once represented Signal Mountain and now lobbies the Legislature.

He called it a "sex on steroids happening."

"Along with a campuswide scavenger hunt for a prophylactic device, a sex talent show, a drag show, and other events with titles not decent enough to publish here, UT is hosting a well-known lesbian bondage expert," he said.

Fox News Radio quoted a university spokeswoman saying, "It's tackling important topics related to sexual health, sexual identity, preventing sexual assault, gender roles [and] religion. The students have done a good job making sure there are things to appeal to all."

Kyle looks to leave Senate

Everyone knows things are tough for the tiny, seven-member Senate Democratic Caucus these days, adrift in the midst of a 26-member Republican sea after losing six members in 2012 elections.

So how bad is it? Well, maybe this is an indication: Senate Minority Leader Jim Kyle, of Memphis, filed an application Friday to fill a Probate Court vacancy, The Commercial Appeal in Memphis reported Friday.

An attorney, Kyle told the newspaper that if he wins an interim appointment by the Shelby County Commission, he will resign from the state Senate seat he has held since 1983.

"I believe that if I become judge, I can no longer serve in the Legislature, but I would leave anyway because I can't be a judge and be in Nashville," Kyle, 62, told the Memphis newspaper Friday. "This is an unexpected opportunity, and I feel this is a job I can do and do well and continue my service to the community."

Earlier this week, Kyle's wife, Sara Kyle, announced she was resigning from the Tennessee Regulatory Authority.

about Andy Sher...

Andy Sher is a Nashville-based staff writer covering Tennessee state government and politics for the Times Free Press. A Washington correspondent from 1999-2005 for the Times Free Press, Andy previously headed up state Capitol coverage for The Chattanooga Times, worked as a state Capitol reporter for The Nashville Banner and was a contributor to The Tennessee Journal, among other publications. Andy worked for 17 years at The Chattanooga Times covering police, health care, county government, ...

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