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Campfield says fees bill has wide support despite supposed student opposition

A petition with more than 3,500 signatures of University of Tennessee students was presented at the Tennessee Capitol yesterday by UT student government officials in response to legislation that would mandate that students entering public universities in Tennessee would either have the option of opting out of paying the fees, which are often disbursed to student special interest groups for them to bring speakers to campus and have other activities, or the funds would have to be equally distributed to all groups. The bill comes after one student group attempted to stage "sex week" on the campus of the University with events funded by student fees that have openly discussed deviancy and invited speakers such as "Sinclair Sexsmith" with university student activity funds.

The legislation's sponsor, Sen. Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) told The Examiner in remarks this morning that his bill isn't just about sex week, and the petition isn't causing him to let up one bit. "First of all, it needs to be remembered that the University of Tennessee is a land grant institution and a public university funded in no small part by Tennessee taxpayers," Campfield said in remarks just before a meeting with University of Tennessee officials in his Nashville office, "that means that the voices of millions of Tennesseans matter on this issue, UT belongs to all of us."

Campfield wanted to make clear, however, that "sex week" was not the reason for his legislation, instead it was the last straw. "I've been hearing from constituents for years about the things at the university that student activity fees were funding, and the fact that students were having to pay these fees and fund speakers and activities they did not support," the Senator and former House member said. "I have heard from students, and I have heard from their parents who are helping pay for their child's tuition and fees, and I have heard from taxpayers. They've complained about the one-sided use of student-activity fees and the things that were being supported by UT long before now."

"Either students should be allowed to opt-out of paying these activity fees if they wish, or a system needs to be in place to insure that these funds are distributed in such a way that all kinds of groups can get the money," Campfield said. Campfield's alternative approach would likely remove the authority of the Student Government Association at UT or its affiliate sub-groups to determine what groups on campus get student activity money and what groups do not, which may explain why Student Government officials took up the petition.

Senator Campfield's bill is Senate Bill 1608. The House version of the bill is being sponsored by Representative Susan Lynn (R-Mount Juliet).

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