NASHVILLE — A House panel today approved a resolution condemning "Sex Week" activities at the University of Tennessee's Knoxville campus following a wording change.
The resolution, sponsored by Rep. Richard Floyd, R-Chattanooga, still attacks the event as an "outrageous misuse of student fees and grant monies."
Floyd, however, removed the word "administration" of the University of Tennessee and substituted the word "organizers" through an amendment approved by Education Committee members.
With no debate, committee members quickly approved the measure on a voice vote.
The resolution grew out of last year's controversy over "Sex Week" activities at UT-Knoxville. The annual event, sponsored by Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee, features a series of activities and lectures highlighting sex education and areas like safe sex.
But last year's event, which also featured a lesbian bondage expert, drag show and a campus-wide hunt for a “golden condom,” triggered an avalanche of criticism from social conservatives in the Republican-dominated Tennessee Legislature. That led to legislative hearings scrutinizing various campus groups' funding of events and speakers, accusing public higher education of a left-wing bias.
With lawmakers on the warpath, UT-Knoxville quickly dropped any state tax funding for the group's organizers. But students fees and grants remain available. University of Tennessee officials say free speech rights guaranteed by the First Amendment make it difficult to deny funding.
Several lawmakers have bills that would change state law to require student fees be distributed proportionally to university organizations based on membership. The bills would also prohibit the use of institutional revenue to pay for any guest speakers.
Floyd's resolution expresses the displeasure of lawmakers.
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, ...