Good afternoon Madam Chair and members of the Senate Education Committee. Thank you for providing this opportunity to share with you our thoughts on the Comptroller’s report and the actions we will take.

First, we are thankful. I want to share our appreciation to the Comptroller’s Office, under the direction of Justin Wilson, for a very comprehensive and thoughtful report. We believe it was fair and presented a range of valuable policy considerations.

Second, we are listening. We will adopt four of the policy considerations immediately. Specifically, they are numbers 3, 6, 7, and 8. Consideration number 10 will be carefully studied. I will share the details of each in a moment. Please note that some of the policy considerations were for others such as the legislature or students, and some were mutually exclusive, so we cannot do them all.

Third, we expressly do not condone Sex Week. We want to be perfectly clear, the University of Tennessee does not condone or support the sensational and explicit programming that Sex Week has often provided. We believe it has damaged the reputation and overshadowed the many achievements of our University with the people of Tennessee, with the legislature that represent them, with the over 382,000 alumni worldwide and 220,000 alumni in Tennessee and is not representative of the vast majority of our students. We, along with our Board of Trustees, are committed to doing all we can legally to discourage and distance the University from salacious, irresponsible content.


Specifically, we will implement the following actions:

  1. We will share copies of the Comptroller’s report with the UT Board of Trustees and engage in a public discussion of the Comptroller’s policy considerations with the Board at its next meeting on March 1.
  2. Regarding the Comptroller Policy Consideration 8, we will work with the UT Board of Trustees to make the policy change necessary to cease future allocations of funds directly to registered student organizations and completely eliminate the Student Programming Allocation Committee often referred to as SPAC. We will also work with the Board to develop a process in which the administration decides what programming to fund, including sex education programming, with input from students.
  3. Regarding Comptroller Policy Consideration 7, eliminating SPAC will address the issue of potential bias in the allocation process.
  4. Regarding Comptroller Policy Consideration 6, we will adopt a more consistent and proactive communication strategy for students, parents, and Tennessee citizens regarding Sex Week.
  5. Regarding Comptroller Policy Consideration 3, as part of our transparency initiative, we will publish detailed information on funding for registered student organizations for spring 2019 programming. As of today, this programming is now on our website.
  6. Regarding Comptroller Policy Consideration 10, we will study the possibility of charging registered student organizations for the use of facilities that are not funded by the student activity fee.

We believe these actions will be effective and again thank the Comptrollers Office, and all the members of this Committee, for providing this thorough and fair report, and for these policy considerations.

I’d like to make a few other very important points.

First, we believe in free speech. We believe in the right of free speech, just as you do, and will support that right of our students. Thus, while we can encourage and redirect towards more desperately needed educational content, the students can still continue on their own to provide programming of their choosing. To our students, we are not censoring you, nor impeding your right of free speech.

It’s important to note, the new policy considerations will not affect this year’s programming which was approved last fall. To remove the limited student fee funding for Sex Week’s programming this year, we would have to also impact a wide range of other very valuable programming. And, even if we did attempt to do that, much of the Sex Week programming would still continue without the funding.

Second, we believe in our students. I believe in our students and am hopeful that we can find a win-win where they have the opportunity to lead and express themselves, but in a way that provides valuable and needed help on very critical issues. Myself and many others, have tried to engage the leaders of the student organization known as SEAT, that organizes Sex Week, urging them to focus on “human sexuality as a legitimate academic field of inquiry” as quoted by this Committee’s Chair and noted in page 1 of the Comptroller’s report. As do most other universities, we have serious issues on our campus that they could address. Sexual assault, even rape, are issues we can all agree we need to provide education to prevent. Given the productive conversations we had with the students, I was hopeful for more responsible programming this year. I am worried that many will still find the content and programming inappropriate and offensive. However, I believe these actions, along with the responsible leadership of our students, will help us to focus on the truly critical issues that provide for the education and the basic safety of our students.

Finally, we believe in UT. I am extremely proud of my alma mater and the faculty, administration and most importantly our students. I am concerned that the actions of one tenth of 1% of our students has distracted from the amazing contributions that our University provides each and every day. From producing over 70% of Tennessee’s doctors and dentists, to supporting communities through our ag extension offices, to leading 4-H clubs that support over 186,000 of its young members, to groundbreaking research, to providing access to a better education and a better life to hundreds of thousands since our founding, and over 50,000 students today, the University of Tennessee has so much to be proud of. We are proud of our great history, we are proud of the great impact we are making today, and we are incredibly excited about the even greater contribution our university and the students of today will have on the future of our state, the nation and the world.

Again, we expressly don’t condone salacious, inappropriate programming. We are thankful for the Comptrollers report and to this committee. And, we are listening.

It is our sincere hope that our actions to utilize the Comptroller’s report and policy considerations will help us address this issue more effectively and let us get on with putting all of our energy and resources towards student success and the mission of Tennessee’s land grant university.

Madam Chair, thank you for allowing me to speak on this matter, and I’ll be glad to answer any questions you may have.