Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

February 8, 2017

Pushback grows after Florida university cancels poly, kink talks

Sex Week, featuring sex-ed lectures about things college students want to know, has become a thing on many campuses around Valentine's Day. Often included in these programs are Polyamory 101 talks.

But at the University of North Florida in Jacksonville, the administration has canceled two poly and kink talks, and one on sex toys, after an outfit called the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia, ("training conservative activists, students, and leaders since 1979") published an article, UNF Sex Week promotes polyamory as 'alternative to cheating', on its site Campus Reform. The story was picked up by other right-wing media, including the Washington Times.

Pressure on the university administration, however, appears to have come from another direction: jittery business and community leaders in Jacksonville who don't want anything controversial to affect passage of a local Human Rights Ordinance (HRO) for LGBT protection. The Jacksonville City Council will vote on the ordinance on February 14th. [Update: It easily easily passed, by a vote of 12 to 6, though with a religious exemption added.]

Administration spokespeople are saying the cancellations were merely to keep Sex Week focused on its goal of "health and wellness, relationships and intimacy, identity and orientation, safety and risk awareness, and consent." As if poly and kink education weren't about exactly those things?

"Cheating vs. Polyamory" and "Coming out Kinky" were to be offered March 8th and 9th by Kitty Chambliss and Airel Zeig, respectively, of the Relationship Equality Foundation. The REF's vice president Billy Holder, of Atlanta Poly Weekend fame, is also scheduled to present a class: "Feeling the Rush: Navigating New Relationship Energy."

This morning, Billy sent out a press release: University of North Florida Denies Students Access to Equal Sexual Education.

Billy Holder
Relationship Equality Foundation

University of North Florida Denies Students Access to Equal Sexual Education
Jacksonville, Florida, 2/8/2017  –  UNF Vice President Thomas Serwatka has decided to [cancel] two out of three of the classes offered by Relationship Equality Foundation for Sex Week UNF March 6 - 10, 2017, on the basis of unfounded fear and bias against our community and students who identify within this community. This decision came after a short series of conservative articles had been published by Campus Reform.
A piece of programming that the University of North Florida holds is its annual Sex Week, presented by the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) Resource Center. The Relationship Equality Foundation (REF) is a non-profit organization that deals with the continued advocacy and education of ethical non-monogamous relationships for consenting adults. The Foundation was asked if it would provide a couple of classes to complement the overall mission of Sex Week: to provide safe, consensual, and educational information in regard to sexual activities. REF gave UNF three classes, “Coming out Kinky,” “Cheating vs. Polyamory,” and “Navigating New Relationship Energy (NRE).” Two of these classes, “Coming out Kinky” and “Cheating vs. Polyamory,” were cancelled after an article by Campus Reform was published. This article was then picked up by several other conservative, right leaning, publications.
Neither the students nor REF were contacted by Campus Reform or the University to explain these classes further. [Both classes are] evidence-based education and would fulfill the overall goal of Sex Week. Currently the students are angry and feel unheard, and are exercising every resource available to them to bring these classes back. It is the belief of both REF and the students that there should be non-discriminatory sexual education for students to be a part of. Since this has occurred, several letters have been written by both students and outside organizations, including the National Coalition of Sexual Freedom, addressed to the University asking for these classes to be put back on the schedule during sex week.
According to [university] VP and Chief of Staff Tom Serwatka, the decision to cancel these classes stems from pressures from the supporters and lobbyist in favor of the HRO passage next week. We at REF believe the HRO is a great thing and hope that its passage will give our community members in intersecting communities that it covers protections they do not currently have.
Relationship Equality Foundation
The Relationship Equality Foundation, Inc.’s (REF) purpose is to provide outreach, education and support for those involved in or seeking relationships with non-traditional structures, and education and outreach to the general public about these relationships.

Billy says the student LGBT Resource Center, which runs Sex Week, is asking for letters of support for reinstating the talks, including from outside the university to show that the wider world is watching.

"A few letters of support have started coming in but more are needed!" Billy writes. "Thank you to those who have written. But many more are needed. The Administration is currently meeting to decide the fate of the entire Sex Week program, I was told. The letters are helping."

The address to write to is slgbt@unf.edu. Update: To write to the administration directly, contact Vice President Tom Serwatka, tom.serwatka@unf.edu. Be polite and respectful; represent us well.

A meeting between students and administrators is scheduled for tomorrow (Thursday Feb. 9).

Update Feb. 9: The daily student newspaper, the UNF Spinnaker, now has an article: UNF Sex Week events cancelled by officials.

Update Feb. 12: After outcry, Florida university restores banned poly and kink talks.


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Blogger Unknown said...

So relieved to hear these talks were reestablished. As a psychology Student who is about to finish my Bachelor's in Psychology, I find it disturbing that a college would make such a rash decision and shut down something that is set to address incorrect assumptions about a particular lifestyle. There are many peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles showing polyamory to be a healthy, loving type of relationship! In fact, this is the subject of my Bachelor's thesis.

April 26, 2017 4:49 PM  

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