I'm writing this in response to the post that my local representative, Stacey Campfield, made on his blog a few weeks ago. I've been thinking about it since I read it, and I've moved past my initial knee-jerk response, which was to point out that Campfield can't spell simple words like "behind" and hasn't mastered the possessive use of the apostrophe in words like "people's", and really gave some serious thought to his complaint.
Representative Campfield is annoyed that state money is being spent on this:
No, not the Honors Program. Despite his struggles with the English language, he doesn't seem to resent smarter people. Representative Campfield is offended that state money is being spent on the LGBT Resource Center that just opened on our campus. That's well within his rights, just as it's well within my rights to be offended by Representative Campfield and pretty much every line of his post.
Before we get into that, though, I want to get a few things out of the way up front. I live in Representative Campfield's district, and I vote there. Granted, I did not vote for him, and his positions guarantee that I never will, but as an elected official he must still be answerable to his constituents whether we voted for him or not. On top of that, I am also a donor to the university. I'm a small donor, not one of the "big donors" he worries about in his post, but surely, "as many departments of government are being forced to cut their funding, staff, cut back on space and other niceties of life", even the small donors count for something.
We'll come back to the donor issue. First, though, I want to look at his other points.
The Rep (as he calls himself when he posts in his own heavily moderated comments section) wonders if Christian outreach would get an office and funding. He should probably ask at the Christian Student Center, located on campus in a permanent facility on Melrose Avenue, the same street as the LGBT Resource Center. He wonders if conservative outreach or Republican outreach might be on the list to get funding. There's no need to wonder, The Rep, since you can just ask at the biweekly meeting of the College Republicans, which is held on campus in one of the many meeting rooms at the University Center at no cost to the group itself. I guess the answer to that question, then, would be yes, Christian outreach, conservative outreach, and Republican outreach all receive space and funding on campus.
The Rep wonders, though, about who is next on the list to get an office, funding, and a room. (I, on the other hand, wonder when an office stopped being a room.) The heterosexual "players" outreach, the Chubby Chasers, the swingers outreach, BDS&M outreach, and the furries are not next on that list, because there aren't any recognized student groups on campus for any of those categories. Maybe someday, when each of those groups has an organizational charter, has petitioned for and been granted recognition, and has a stable membership willing to campaign for funding and space, they might be on the list, but for now those groups pose no threat to The Rep's wallet.
The Rep still wonders, though, why some people feel entitled to other people's money based on their sexual orientation or fetish. I'm not sure about the fetish part, since I know of no group of fetishists demanding funds to support their penchant for whatever odd thing it is that they are attracted to. As for the people who feel entitled to other people's money based on their sexual orientation, well, I'd make the argument that they're asking for their own money. Last time I checked, there were still LGBT people paying taxes in Tennessee, and there were LGBT students paying tuition and activity fees to attend the university. It's their money, too.
And really, how much money is the Resource Center actually costing the university, anyway? Not a lot, when you break it down.
First, look at the location. The OUTreach LGBT Resource Center is located in Melrose Hall, one of the oldest buildings left on campus. Melrose is so old, in fact, that it has no mortgage and carries no bonds from construction. The building and the land it sits on are completely paid for. Used for decades as a dormitory, Melrose has sat vacant for three years since the housing department stopped using it. No one else was asking for the space, the same way that no one is asking for the space in Strong Hall, which is busy rotting at the other end of campus since it was vacated at the same time. Giving space in Melrose to the center doesn't take space away from anyone, but instead provides a purpose for a historic campus building that would otherwise rot like an eyesore in the middle of the pedestrian walkway.
Then there's the matter of the resources, but there's no cost there, either. Everything in the center, from the furniture to the books to the posters on the walls to the office supplies, is donated. I know, because a half dozen or so of the books came from my bookshelves, and I also arranged the donation and delivery of several pieces of the furniture. I am not anywhere close to being the only person to do so, either.
The resource center has no telephone. No phoneline, no voicemail, no physical telephone hardware, which means no telephone-related expenses.
There is the matter of staff. The center is currently staffed part time by two graduate assistants. One of those assistants does get a stipend from the Commission for LGBT people. The other assistant, though, is a volunteer, which means he is paying to go to the university. The math may not be exact, but I'd say that the person being paid to staff the place and the person who is paying to be able to staff the place pretty much cancel each other out, the same way a Diet Coke cancels out eating a candy bar.
(Shut up. It totally does.)
As near as I can tell, the only things that still need to be accounted for to put The Rep's mind at rest are utilities and the signs out front.
The signs already existed, since the Honors Program was already there, but there was a cost to add the wording about the resource center to them. Save that thought for the wrap up, when we get back to donors.
As for utilities, the center has no plumbing. No toilet, no sink, no water faucets or fountains. If the staff have to use the restroom, they have to lock the center and go to another building. This means, of course, that there's not a water bill. It's the dead of winter, though, and the heat is on. Melrose Hall has centralized, steam powered heat. You can't really regulate it, and if you turn it off in parts of the building then the pipes will freeze, so the heat is either on or off. Since the Honors Program was already located in Melrose long before the LGBT center was, the heat was already on. Melrose isn't air-conditioned, due to the age of the building, so that won't be an issue, either.
That just leaves electricity. The center doesn't have a computer, television, or any other technology installed. Instead, there are three ceiling lights and a lamp. One of the ceiling lights is always on, because it's one of the building's emergency lights. It would be on whether the center was there or not. The other two lights are only turned on if someone is using one of those two rooms, the same as the floor lamp in the main room. Since the center is only open for twenty hours a week, those lights are only on a maximum of twenty hours a week.
All of this analysis leaves us with three lights' worth of electricity usage a month and the one-time cost of adding words to a few signs that were already in place. That's where the donors come in, and like I said way back at the beginning, I'm one of them. A payroll deduction comes out of my check every month and goes into the account for the Commission for LGBT people, and I know several other people who do the same. Between all of us, I'm sure we have those three lamps and those signs covered. As for the university's big donors, which The Rep is so concerned about, their donations are almost always earmarked for specific purposes. None of them are paying for the resource center unless they want to.
After all of that, where does this leave us? Well, the opening of the resource center was attended by a few hundred people. Those people live in Tennessee, and pay taxes in Tennessee. They also have family members who pay taxes in Tennessee and friends who pay taxes in Tennessee. State money comes from everyone in the state, not just from the straight people who live here. And yes, there are some straight people who probably don't want their money going for an LGBT center, but you know what?
There are also racist people in Tennessee, and they probably don't want their money going to the university's Black Cultural Center or the Office of Minority Student Affairs. There are xenophobic people in Tennessee, and they probably don't want their money going to the university's International House. There are childless people in Tennessee who may not want their money to support the university's Early Learning Center, and there are probably people somewhere in Tennessee who don't want to support the university's Office of Disability Services. There are atheists in Tennessee who may not want any state dollars going to the Campus Ministries. For every center, group, or office on campus, there is at least one person in the state of Tennessee who doesn't think their money should pay for it. That's the way the world is.
As for Representative Campfield... it's his job to work on behalf of his constituents, whether those constituents are straight, gay, black, white, young, old, players, chubby chasers, Republicans, Christians, atheists, conservatives, liberals, swingers, or even furries. If those people are paying taxes, then those people are paying him. If he doesn't feel like he can focus on things that are actually important, and instead feels like imposing his moral structure on others should be a higher priority, then I'm happy to vote for his opponent in the next election instead.
I don't want my state money going to people I disapprove of, and right now that's you, Rep.