There has been heated debate lately regarding the recent decision of the Union Activities Board to use student fees to purchase a variety of sex toys for Dirty Bingo night, and their subsequent decision to use private funding instead of student fees. As the person largely responsible for taking this matter to the national media, this debate has never been about the legitimacy of the use of sex toys.
Rather, it is a debate that cuts straight to the core of our conception of what a university is and how a university should function. To be sure, sex is a natural and very important part of life. But when was it decided that our University should be a general provider of all things relevant to life? A sharp divide exists between students who view the University as responsible for their education, and those who view it as responsible for their general well-being and happiness. It is this conflict of visions for our school, and not a conflict over sexuality, that gave rise to such strong emotions.
If the University is responsible for our well-being, it should certainly be responsible for our food. Everyone needs food. Yet N.C. State does not provide us with any food at all. University Dining operates with autonomy, much like a business. They can bring in franchised restaurants like Taco Bell or create their own brands like Wolfpack Subs. University Dining charges prices, not fees. Because we each purchase our own food, we get service tailored to our individual preferences. A vegetarian does not pay for someone else’s meat. This stands in stark contrast to Dirty Bingo, where students who were opposed to the event paid exactly the same price as students who were supportive.
When the subject of campus culture and social life is discussed, people often assume the University must be responsible for subsidizing events. This is patently false. In my seven semesters at State, I have been involved with multiple student organizations that received no University funding whatsoever, instead thriving on minimal membership dues. Indeed, the very fact that Dirty Bingo ultimately secured private sponsorship proves my point exactly.
In essence there are two ways to fund projects in any society. Either everyone can decide for themselves what they want to buy, or we can all throw our money in a big pool and then later draw money back out of that pool. In practice we usually meet somewhere between these two extremes, but the question remains of which is more effective.
The process of drawing money out of a pool is riddled with negotiation and often controversy. It is only because the money was ever put into a pool in the first place that this controversy exists. No one can complain about another person spending his or her own money on a sex toy. But anyone has the right to object when someone else buys a sex toy using collective cash.
In order to promote a more efficient use of funds, we should view the University as a source of education, period. At least, fees for non-academic purposes should be made optional. We would have more options and more cooperation if we viewed campus culture as being the responsibility of the students, not the University. In this way we can all come together, toward a common cause of individual autonomy. The alternative is continued partisan division and anger, because every collective spending decision will always benefit some at the expense of others. Subsidies only serve to promote waste and inefficiency.
If we do not need the University to provide us with food, we certainly don’t need it to provide us with sex toys.