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Private donations pour in to UT Sex Week in wake of funding controversy

9:47 PM, Mar 21, 2013   |    comments
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According to its website, UT Sex Week is now completely funded as of Thursday night.  Private donations have poured in since the University notified the event's organizers late Wednesday afternoon that it was pulling $11,000 in state funding. 

Organizers said they never considered canceling the event.  Instead they acknowledged the University's move motivated them to work even harder to make sure the event happens.

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A week ago, the student group, "Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee," had the $18,000 it needed to make the first-ever UT Sex Week happen in a few weeks. In the past 24 hours, that has changed, but organizers tell us they will not cancel the event.

On Monday, two state lawmakers opposed Sex Week, including Senator Stacy Campfield. He said if it's funded with state dollars, he will push for lawmakers to review UT's budget.

Student organizers say they spent the past nine months raising money to cover the event and planning it. They tell us they aren't backing down due to the university's "about face" on funding.

"Its goal is to start a comprehensive dialogue about sex education, empowerment, and awareness," said Brianna Rader.

Jacob Clark and Brianna Rader are doing what college students have done for generations-- making a statement and fighting for a cause.

"We're covering sexual acts from a health perspective, and sometimes from a pleasure perspective," said Clark.

The UT juniors say the goal behind their efforts to bring Sex Week to campus is to give students basic information.

"They don't know where to find birth control, they don't know how to deal with issues of gender, sexual assault," said Rader.

The week-long event has an $18,000 price tag. $6,700 of that is covered by student fees.

"We wanted the event to be academic and supported by several different people on campus. This meant getting funding from different departments," said Rader.

The duo says they secured the other $11,000 from departments across campus, including cinema studies, sociology, and history.

Late Wednesday, university administrators abruptly took the money back. In a statement, President Joe DiPietro said:
"The university's three-part mission is to provide education, research, and public service, and the state allocates this funding to help us fulfill the mission. Some activities planned as part of Sex Week are not an appropriate use of state funds."

"We understand that it is a political issue, and that hands can be tied," said Clark.

UT is in the middle of planning its budget for next year, which state lawmakers will approve in a few weeks.

"Now, we're going forward. We can accept it as fact," said Clark.

Clark and Rader say they're going after non-state funding on campus, and asking for private donations for a cause that's now also in the national spotlight.

"We are in the works of responding to CNN. We are interviewing with FOX News Bill O'Reilly today," said Clark.

But it's how sex week will impact students' futures that matters most for these two.

UT Sex Week begins Friday April 5th, the week classes resume after spring break.

That Bill O'Reilly appearance airs Thursday night on FOX News, and Clark says Inside Edition is coming to campus soon to preview and cover the event.

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