State Sen. Stacey Campfield, R-Knoxville, announced Monday he will be ceasing efforts to promote Senate Bill 2493 and Senate Bill 1608, both of which sought to alter the way student fees are distributed at public institutions of higher education in Tennessee.
Campfield retired the bills following University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro's formal pledge of support for Senate Joint Resolution 626. Passed by the legislature on March 13, the resolution asked the UT administration to allow students to opt out of student programming they find "controversial or objectionable."
In a letter sent on Friday to House Speaker Beth Harwell, Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey and the two legislators responsible for the resolution, DiPietro stated that the UT administration and Board of Trustees will now begin to develop policy changes addressing these suggestions.
"I believe the result of our efforts will be a more transparent student activity fee system that respects the First Amendment right of student organizations to engage in a free and open exchange of ideas but also provides individual students the right not to fund student organization expression that is offensive to their personal beliefs," DiPietro wrote in the letter.
Campfield's bills sought to reform the current process for student fee allocation, in which a student-led board determines how much of the collected mandatory fee money to distribute to student groups and programs who submitted funding requests.
Senate Bill 1608/HB2378, co-sponsored by Rep. Susan Lynn, R-Mount Juliet, of District 57, proposed that groups receive funding proportional to membership size.
Senate Bill 2493/HB2450, co-sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Matlock, R-Lenoir City of District 21, forbade the use of student fees to pay for speakers on campus.
Although both bills were put on the legislative schedule for the Senate Education Committee on Monday, both have now been taken off the calendar.
The legislature will make no further attempt to pass the bills.
"I was happy with what the university decided to do," Campfield said in an interview with The Daily Beacon on Tuesday. "We've been in negotiations with them.
"I said I didn't think that it was right that people should be forced to pay for something that they find objectionable or offensive as a part of their student activities fee."
Although Campfield admitted SJR 626 has "no teeth" on its own, he believes DiPietro will follow through with his pledge.
"At some point you've got to be able to trust some people," Campfield said, "and I think I can trust President DiPietro to do what he says he's going to do, so I expect that he will do those things."
Campfield predicts the transition from a mandatory student fees system to an optional process will begin as soon as next year.