Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Update: UT Mistakenly Uninvited HIV/AIDS Conference

Posted By on Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 2:48 PM

Citing a mistake by one of its staff members, the University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) has offered to revisit plans to host the Red Door Foundation's "Saving Ourselves" Symposium Community Summit. The event is largely geared towards promoting awareness, prevention, and treatment of HIV/AIDS within the African-American LGBTQ community.

"The University of Tennessee Health Science Center's decision to deny use of the Student Alumni Center for the Tri-State African-American Community Summit was in error and based on a staff member's mistaken belief that policies and procedures on use of campus facilities were under revision. We welcome the opportunity to re-open a dialogue with representatives from the Community Summit."

UTHSC rescinded their invitation to host the "Saving Ourselves" Symposium last Thursday, one day after UT-Knoxville's Chancellor Jimmy Cheek and President Joe DiPietro withdrew funding for a sexual health event on the UT-Knoxville campus. UTHSC cited a "revision of policy procedure regarding usage of campus facilities."

Event organizers, who had secured the UT Alumni Center as their venue last fall, were stunned by the abrupt reversal of UTHSC's position on hosting the conference. Dustin James, board chair of the conference and Executive Director of the MidSouth AIDS Fund, said he was still holding out hope for the university to change its position and invite the conference back to campus.

And they have. Which is welcome news for the conference and for the more than 7,500 Memphians living with HIV/AIDS. Except that the renewed invitation comes with new set of conditions.

"We have gotten a letter with new stipulations from UT, and as of right now they are very different from what we were told and what we agreed upon before the space was revoked," says James. "There are new barriers that they've put in place, and we have sought legal counsel at this point."

As to what these new stipulations are, James was not prepared to share that information. Though he noted that the new conditions are different enough from the original arrangement brokered between the conference and the university to warrant legal counsel, and that they presented a roadblock to the mission of the "Saving Ourselves" Symposium.

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