Town Hall

Students and other members of the UT community expressed their concerns regarding the future of program funding at an Open Town Hall Tuesday Feb. 26, 2019.

Room 169 of the Student Union was standing room only Tuesday evening. 

With the Tennessee Comptroller's Report on Sex Week less than a week old, members of the UT community expressed their concerns regarding the future of program funding at an Open Town Hall with a panel of Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis, Senior Vice Chancellor and Provost David Manderscheid, Vice Chancellor of Communications Tisha Benton and Vice Chancellor for Student Life Vince Carilli. 

Co-hosted by the Office of the Chancellor and Student Government Affairs, the town hall addressed concerns regarding program funding and its potential effects on Sex Week and other organized events. 

Senior studying mechanical engineering Grayson Hawkins expressed his concerns with the allocation of student programming. Hawkins, who has been involved in student programming for the past four years, said he felt STEM organizations received little funding. 

“I found it really one-sided, almost to the point where it seems like the STEM part of campus is being ignored,” Hawkins said. 

Senior studying agriculture leadership, education and communication Christian Dalton echoed this sentiment, asking for a clearer depiction of where student funding is going when students choose to opt-in: “Is there any way that y’all can consider there being another way to opt in or opt out where we could better control how we as students can tell where our part of funding is going?”

Davis and Carilli each addressed changes to student programming allocation and the need to work with students to create a different process for allocating student programming funds.

“We are going to change the process. It would not be SPAC as it is described today in the Board of Trustees document ... change process so that responsibility is placed on Chancellor's office to ensure that the programming is appropriate,” Davis added. “At the same time, we are going to involve students in the process.” 

“None of us have any interest whatsoever in eliminating student programming,” Davis said. 

One of the policy considerations explicitly addressed by the panel was Policy Consideration #10: “UTK could charge registered student organizations for the use of all facilities.”

Davis, however, assured that student organizations wouldn't be charged a fee, citing the fact that students have access to the spaces through their paid tuition. 

“We as a Cabinet of the Chancellor’s Office have made a decision,” Davis said. “We do not intend (at this time) to charge students space charges for programs.” 

Some charges could occur, however, for certain instances such as the robotics competition that occurs each year. The event is sponsored by a university entity, but fees are still charged because of its use of Thompson-Boling Arena to support the large event. 

Sophomore studying economics Paige Shimer addressed her concerns with the policy considerations accepted by the university, citing a concern that the accepted considerations would inadvertently lead to the university accepting Policy Consideration #9: “The University of Tennessee Knoxville could limit the amount of funding registered student organizations can request annually.” 

“What we know is that with the SPAC process as it has previously existed, we haven’t had enough funds to fund everything. At some point, we have to recognize that not everything is going to be funded,” Carilli said. “I think that the policy consideration offered by the Comptroller’s Report really is a practicality, I don’t think it’s going to be a number associated with any student organization.”

Arguably impacted the most from the recent Comptroller's report, Davis assured that he didn't wish to see Sex Week end. 

“I’ve not heard anybody say we’re eliminating Sex Week,” Davis said. “If you all want Sex Week, that programming that is going to be planned, which you all will be providing input to will probably occur.”

“We're going to protect your right to freedom of speech,” Davis added. 

Benton said she felt the issue was with the process instead of the people involved with Sex Week, citing her appreciation of the students. 

“I have had the opportunity to sit down with the student leaders of SEAT,” Benton said. “The mission is an important one.” 

Staff writer Cat Trieu contributed to this article. 

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