Press Release from the Senate Republican Caucus, March 4, 2014:
NASHVILLE — Senate Government Operations Committee Chairman Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and Education Committee Chairman Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) have issued a letter to University of Tennessee President Dr. Joe DiPietro and members of the Board of Trustees of the University of Tennessee expressing their strong disapproval regarding the Sex Week UT program being held at the Knoxville campus this week. The radical student program, organized by the Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee (SEAT), features two lectures given by a porn actress and filmmaker, a drag show, an aphrodisiac cooking class and condom scavenger hunt, among other topics being featured March 2 – 7.
In addition to using campus facilities, most of the $25,000 event cost will be taken from mandatory student fees paid by students and parents when they enroll at the university. The program also receives a $5,000 “Ready for the World” grant from the university.
“We are writing to express our disapproval and dismay at the lack of leadership at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville regarding the events of Sex Week,” said Gresham and Bell in the letter. “This inaction is unacceptable.”
The House of Representatives voted 69 to 17 to adopt House Joint Resolution 661 condemning Sex Week UT last week. The Senate Education Committee is set to take similar action with consideration of Senate Joint Resolution 626 on the matter on Wednesday.
“The organizers of Sex Week have promoted the event as a sexual health event, when in reality the aim of the organizers is to thrust a radical agenda on the students of the University of Tennessee,” the letter said. “It is the responsibility of the administrators of the University of Tennessee, rather than a student organization registered with the university, to make decisions regarding how to educate students about sexual health issues.”
“Students and parents have no choice in whether or not to pay the student fees imposed by the university,” said Gresham and Bell. “In doing so, they have no right to refuse to allow their money to be used in this manner.”
“This is not a First Amendment issue,” the letter continued. “In Miller v California, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that material can be judged obscene if, taken as a whole and judged by community standards, it appeals to the “prurient interest” in sex, depicts sexual conduct in a patently offensive manner, and lacks serious literary, artistic, political, and scientific value. This definition could not fit any better than it does when describing the events which are occurring on Tennessee’s flagship campus this week. Threats of legal action should be carefully considered; however, case law supports the university’s rejection of such outrageous behavior being offered on our campus by the event’s organizers.”
Gresham and Bell also said that they have been contacted by numerous groups who object to Sex Week activities, including victims who have suffered from sex crimes and who believe that topics like those offered this year are harmful to the public.
“Certainly, the university must understand that Tennessee taxpayers are not anxious for their legislature to appropriate new funds to this university when they see abuse of monies being used for this purpose.”
“This event puts a stain on our beloved university, its supporters and the taxpayers who help fund this higher education institution in our state. We strongly urge you to exercise your authority to end this event and bring propriety and common sense back to the University of Tennessee at Knoxville,” Bell and Gresham concluded.