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A resolution directing the UT Board of Trustees to implement changes to the current assessment and allocation of student activity fees within the UT System was passed by the Senate Education Committee last night on a 7-1 vote, with Senator Steve Dickerson (R-Nashville) voting no.
Sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell (R-Riceville) and Senate Education Chair Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville), it was expected that the measure would take the place of two substantive bills filed by legislators—one that requires the allocation of fee money for speakers based on the membership of student organizations and another to ban any institutional revenues going towards speakers all together.
While Sen. Bell and Gresham’s resolution passed in yesterday’s Senate committee, it was made clear by Senator Stacey Campfield (R-Knoxville) that legislation on student fees would still be sought. “This [resolution] is just kicking the can down the road,” he stated. Resolutions are “worth about the paper they are written on… They’re virtually worthless,” Campfield said as he laid the groundwork for further legislative action.
Senate Education Chair Dolores Gresham (R-Somerville) agreed to calendar such legislation after hearing Campfield’s concerns, and both Senators Hensley and Bell indicated support for additional measures.
The resolution passed by the Committee last night (SJR626-Bell, Gresham) was agreed upon by legislators and University leaders and was sufficient enough to do all that can be done by the University to address legislative concern without violating the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.
It includes a provision directing the Board of Trustees to implement an option for student fee-payers to “opt in” to the portion of the fee allocated to student organizations for student programming, and directs the Board and UT administrators to publish a list of all student programs funded by the fee. It also directs the Board to consider ways in which transparency and accountability might be improved in the current fee allocation process.
One item in the resolution is specific to the Knoxville campus, directing the UT Board of Trustees to work with UT administrators in order to restructure the University Program and Services Fee Board (UPSF) to ensure a majority of non-student representation. Under the resolution, the UT President will be required to report back to the Education Committee Chairs by January 1, 2015.
SJR626 is a good faith effort by the University to resolve legislative concern over student activity fees. Please contact your elected officials and ask them to strongly oppose SB1608 (Campfield)/HB2378 (Lynn) and SB2493 (Campfield)/HB2450 (Matlock). Click here to take action through the UT Advocacy e-Action Center.