The Year in Review and Election Results

The 2014-2015 school year for the University of Tennessee College Democrats has been one of growth and development. We’ve seen our membership grow exponentially thanks to a dedicated group of new freshmen and sophomores. And with the increase in membership came more opportunities to help students on campus and the Knoxville community at large. 
We started the fall semester off focusing on the 2014 mid-term elections. We hosted numerous voter registration drives on campus with the help of another student organizations. We door knocked and phone banked for District 7 State Senate candidate Cheri Siler and District 13 State Representative Gloria Johnson. We also worked alongside our Planned Parenthood friends and helped with the No On 1 campaign to ensure the failure of Amendment One which would remove constitutional protections for the right to an abortion in the state of Tennessee.

UTK College Democrats also held our second annual Traditional Marriage Day protest, this time with the help of VolOut. We asked students on campus to give us their definition of marriage and we got some fantastic answers.

Over fall break, we embarked on our annual trip to Washington, DC, a trip that would not have been possible without the help of the Knox County Democratic Party who fundraised over six hundred dollars for us to put towards the cost. During the trip, we received a special tour of the Capitol Building from Senator Harry Reid’s office.

For the spring semester, we focused more on individual issues. We held meetings discussing equal partner benefits for UT employees, the future of reproductive rights in the state, environmental sustainability and food deserts in the southeast United States. All of this with the incredible work done by our committee chairs.           
We ended the semester with elections for the executive board who will lead the group during the 2015-2016 school year. The new exec board includes:
President - Mitch Thompson 
Vice President - Caroline Cranford 
Secretary - Feroza Freeland 
Treasurer - Reid Guthrie
Campaign Liaison - Alex Colbeck
Communications Director - Beth Borromeo
Membership Director - Mandy Dean
Events Chair - Kate Stamper 
Senior Advisers - Christina Gore, Ryan Thompson 
We look forward to an even better school year come fall and we hope that you will join us.


Election Time in Tennessee

2014 is an important election year for all areas of government, from the federal level to the local. Early voting for State Primaries and County General Elections has already begun, ending on August 2nd. Election day for state primaries and county elections will be August 7th.

The last day to register to vote in the State General Election is October 6th. Early voting begins on October 15th and ends on the October 30th. Election day for the state general election is November 4th.  

As summer turns into fall, the intensity of these races picks up making it a great time to volunteer. Every campaign is in need of volunteers to help with phonebanking and door-to-door canvassing. If you wish to volunteer for any of these candidates, feel free to check out their websites for information. We encourage everyone to get involved with these great campaigns and the civil process. Volunteer and make a difference in your community.

Democratic County Candidates (Election Day: August 7th)

Knox County Clerk - Mike Padgett

Knox County Trustee - Jim Berrier

Knox County Circuit Court Judge, Division Two - Harold Wimberly, Jr

Knox County Circuit Court Judge, Division Four - Daniel Kidd

Knox County Chancellor, Division Two - Daryl R. Fansler

Knox County Criminal Court  Judge, Division Three - Leland Price

Knox County General Sessions Judge, Division Three - George Underwood

Democratic State Candidates (Election Day: November 4th)

State Senate District 7 - Cheri Siler

State House District 13 - Gloria Johnson

State House District 15 - Joe Armstrong

US Congressional Candidates

US Senate - Terry Adams

US Senate - Gordon Ball

US House of Representatives, Second District - Bob Scott


The Thing About Stacey Campfield

Last year, “Sex Week at the University of Tennessee” made its debut to mixed reactions. State Senator Stacey Campfield was among the loudest to complain in opposition about Sex Week--as he put it, “If someone wants to dress up like a duck, God bless them. But I shouldn’t have to pay for it.” The President of the University of Tennessee system, Joe DiPietro, however, told legislators,  “In my professional opinion, it is very, very important on a university campus to have some sex education going on.” He further stated that he would support Sex Week even if it would prevent only one sexual assault or unwanted pregnancy.

Sen. Campfield’s made threats to revise the University’s budget to withdraw all public funding, if the event received any money from the University. Consequently, all University funding for Sex Week was pulled in 2013.

During the current legislative session, Sen. Campfield has put forth two pieces of legislation, SB1608 and SB2493, that would change the way state universities currently allocate funds from student fees to student organizations. In SB1608, he proposes that funding from student fees should be distributed to student organizations proportionate to their membership. In SB2493, Sen. Campfield proposes that public universities and colleges should not use revenues to pay for speakers.

These bills would create a system that does not allow for a free and open public debate and limits students liberties on campuses across Tennessee. Student organizations at our public universities and colleges have long been forums for students to learn outside the classroom about a wide variety of subjects and from people with differing worldviews. Students would no longer be free to use student government to allocate fees to organizations, instead the legislature would now have a say.

Despite the Senator’s presumed intention, the language of the bills are in conflict with each other. On one hand, SB1608 sets forth the student fees allocation for speakers, while SB2493 prevents the use student fees or any institutional revenues to pay for speakers.

The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Chancellor, Jimmy Cheek, has come out against these bills, as well as the President of the University of Tennessee system Joe DiPietro, UTK Student Body President Jake Baker, and various other UT administrators.

The UTK Student Government created a petition against the proposed legislation regarding student fees, which currently has over 1900 signatures from students and teachers in public universities and colleges across the state.

Importantly, these proposed bills do not define membership. Without a formal definition, there will be no system of accountability and no way to calculate the amount of funding that each organization should receive. This creates a system that is unpredictable and potentially unjust. Ironically, Sex Week would likely receive the largest amount of money because it is one of the most widely attended events.

Earlier this month, Sen. Campfield offered to speak to the UTK College Democrats as a part of his constituents listening tour. The UTK College Democrats extended an invitation to speak with University of Tennessee students, which the Senator accepted--the event was later co-sponsored by the College Republicans. Shortly thereafter, the College Democrats published an event on Facebook that described the event as a “town hall” with Sen. Campfield. After a conversation with the Senator’s executive assistant, the College Democrats became aware of Campfield’s objection to the idea of a town hall event. Subsequently, Campfield, College Democrats, and College Republicans agreed to change the event to a moderated discussion that would pose any reasonable and relevant student provided question to Sen. Campfield.

The College Democrats and College Republicans prescreened and submitted 18 questions to Campfield for review. Sen. Campfield returned eight questions that he refused to answer, on the grounds that they were “‘Do you beat your wife?’ questions.” Among the allegedly unreasonable questions were the following: “[I]n what ways are you involved in your community?”, “Is there any precedent for state legislation regarding student fees?”, and “How do you define ‘membership’ to a student organization?”.

When asked in a phone call with the College Democrats Executive Board why he would not take a question about the definition of membership, Campfield responded “It would take ten minutes to explain.” Eventually he conceded that there was no definition for membership.

In an effort to maintain the integrity of the event, the College Democrats declined to allow Campfield to choose his own questions. Campfield refused to comply. Later that day, however, he called for negotiations to begin again. He proposed three options for the event: a speech without any opportunity for questions, a debate with Democratic primary candidate Cheri Siler, or only answer his desired questions from the original submissions and nothing further. Prior to his request for a debate with Cheri Siler, Campfield originally refused to be in the same room with Cheri Siler.

The College Democrats and College Republicans countered with a proposal that would allow him to reject the eight questions he originally denied, in addition to taking five questions from the audience that would be screened by his executive assistant.

The parties could not reach a final agreement and Campfield effectively pulled out of the event. Though College Democrats and College Republicans received a lot of backlash for hosting the event on campus, the organizations ultimately believed educating student voters was the right course of action. College Republicans were asked to cosponsor the event to make it as clean, fair, and bi-partisan as possible, however none of this satisfied Senator Campfield. He was uncooperative and negligent of his official responsibilities. It is a true shame that he would not come speak to his constituents directly.


Trip of a Lifetime

UTK College Democrats hit DC for President Barack Obama's inauguration.  The energy of the city was unbelievable.  The ceremony was beautiful and truly inspirational.  It was an experience I know none of us will ever forget.  We even ran into Knoxville's Mayor Madeline Rogero!  Our trip was a great way to kick off the new year and semester.  There are only great things to come.  Four more years!


Voter Registration!

         (pictured above: our president Jennifer Baldwin counting voter registration forms)

The presidential election is creeping up on us, and like the Obama campaign, UTK College Democrats are showing no sign of slowing down.  This past week, we registered more than 400 college students to vote!  Several members of UTK College Democrats, camped out on pedestrian walkway (on campus) from 9:00 am - 5:00 pm last Friday, to get the word out about registration.  We are hard at work getting ready for a second term with President Obama and also hot on the local campaign trail as well.  Many members of UTK College Democrats have also been working on the campaign of Gloria Johnson (State House District 13).

Check out our Facebook page for more information on our events and ways to get involved!


College Debate

College Democrats participated in a debate last Wednesday, April 4th, with two representatives from College Republicans, and We the People (a Libertarian group on campus).  Andy Vickers, our president, and Hunter Threet, our treasurer, represented us in the debate.  The debaters tackled topics ranging from social issues, foreign policy, and more.  Congratulations to Andy and Hunter for an excellent performance!

Left to Right: Andy Vickers (second) and Hunter Threet (third)


A Special Guest

We Were honored to have Mayor Madeline Rogero attend our meeting last Monday, as she celebrated her 100th day in office.  Mayor Rogero gave us a brief overview of her experience working for Governor Bill Haslam (former mayor of Knoxville) and her big plans for Knoxville's future.  Mayor Rogero expressed she has seen many monumental changes take place since she began working in Knoxville around 20 years ago and is working to keep the momentum going.  Mayor Rogero said her biggest goal coming into office was to assemble the right team for the job (a team with balanced personalities and skills), and now that she has assembled her dream team, tackling issues like budgeting, land preservation and more.

Mayor Rogero shared with us one project in particular that she is excited about.  Working with the Legacy Parks Foundation, she is hoping to make Knoxville and surrounding areas in eastern Tennessee, a more beautiful place.  Sustainability and preservation are her goals.  Eastern Tennessee is a great place for recreational outdoor activities and she wants people to be more engaged.  There are plans to open an outdoor adventure center that will provide all the information one would need to explore the area and rentals of the equipment needed as well.  A website has been launched, OutdoorKnoxville.com, that also provides information about outdoor recreation.  The site provides everything you would need to know.  It provides information on where to go, different outdoor exploration events, interest groups for different activities, and a general overview of all outdoor recreation Knoxville has to offer. 

It sounds like Mayor Rogero is off to a great start.  We were thrilled to have her at our meeting and are excited to see what's in store for Knoxville's future.