Does it end?

By now, the majority of us are well aware of the flood of sexual harassment accusations against dozens of well-known men in the entertainment industry. The New York Times reported in October that Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein had reached settlements with at least eight women in the past, regarding accusations of sexual misconduct and harassment. 83 women have now come forward to say that Weinstein acted inappropriately toward them.

But the reports haven’t stopped at Weinstein. With the re-introduction of the #MeToo hashtag – started by activist Tarana Burke a decade ago, and gaining attention when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted the tag following publication of the Times article – it became clear that this is a much bigger problem than anyone had anticipated.

Björk, an Icelandic singer, songwriter, producer and actress known globally for her avant-garde style, was just one industry member who disclosed via social media that she, too, had been victimized.

in the spirit of #metoo i would like to lend women around the world a hand with a more detailed description of my…

Posted by Björk on Tuesday, October 17, 2017

The list of survivors in Hollywood, female and male, goes on and on: Reese Witherspoon, America Ferrera, Lady Gaga, Gabrielle Union, and Molly Ringwald, to name a few. Terry Crews has also openly discussed the negative impact that harassment has had on him.

The list of incriminated men is incredibly long, too. Danny Masterson, Hollywood actor. Matt Lauer, television news reporter for NBC News. Charlie Rose, television host and reporter for CBS, PBS and Bloomberg LP. Russell Simmons, cofounder of the Def Jam record label. Louis C.K., comedian. Michael Oreskes, NPR news chief.

These are only a handful of those affected by allegations, whether making or facing them. Some individuals have admitted to acting inappropriately (apologies were later issued by Louis C.K. and Charlie Rose, for example), but the stories keep coming, and are not limited to Hollywood. Former Chief Justice and Republican nominee for U.S. Senate Roy Moore has also recently been accused by multiple women of harassment.

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Following the thousands who have used the #MeToo hashtag to talk about their experiences with abuse and harassment are several women in powerful government positions, including four United States Senators: Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.).

Those who are able are continuing to talk about those experiences, which often happen at work and which they must often brush off. But here’s the thing: the harassment is not limited to awkward hugs or inappropriate shoulder rubs from a boss. And although women most often face these sorts of abuse, they are not the only ones suffering.

 

Lest anyone think these reports are a fluke, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention found that in 2011, nearly 20 percent of U.S. women had been raped at some point, and roughly 43 percent had survived some other type of sexual violence. That translates to numbers into the millions (mouse over chart for more exact figures).

In much the same way that these affronts are not isolated to one kind of assault, they are not isolated to one country. A survey from the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights found that in 2011, nearly half of French, Finnish and German women have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence. A quarter or more of women in nearly every other member country of the European Union reported the same (mouse over map for exact figures by country).

Might these incidents be driven less by actual sexual desire, and more by the desire to exert power? That would likely explain why so many assaults occur while in the process of a job interview or a meeting with a professional superior, and why those accused are often in higher-level positions of authority.

Plenty have been told to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and become independently successful. That independence is the path to the American Dream. However, becoming self-reliant, and thus powerful, takes time and work. What price do these survivors pay to get there? Must they endure the Weinsteins, the Roses, the Mastersons and all the others to get ahead?

For many, the answer is “yes.” Socioeconomically disadvantaged individuals in particular – mostly women, but some men as well – such as single mothers or women of color, might be left with no other choice than to accept harassment for the sake of supporting their families and themselves. Not everyone has the ability to go to college, or to seek out a job at which they can be free from unwanted sexual advances.

Ideally, those experiencing or at risk of harassment or abuse could “save themselves” via independence, or by removing themselves from the situation. Unfortunately, to suggest such a solution in the real world is to let predators off the hook, and to oversimplify an immensely complicated problem.

It has been established that gender roles and power dynamics enforced through societal norms encourage sexual aggression. It has been shown over and over again that many men feel entitled to forcing sex with a woman if he thinks that she has “led him on.”

Why has society established these norms in the first place? Why has it taken so long for these issues to get noticed, and why must it fall to survivors to call for change via the #MeToo movement?

Most importantly – what do we do about it?

Engaging in thoughtful debate may require everyone to stop talking – at least temporarily

Shut Up!

Episode One: Facts or Feelings?

Thinking about the heightened awareness of “fake news” over the last year or two, and increasingly common debate taking place via social media, how can we create effective arguments and constructive dialogue around hot-button topics like politics and social causes?

Thoughtful debate can be challenging to facilitate, but is arguably more important than ever before. I spoke with my parents – a lawyer and a community organizer – and a coworker who is also a journalism student about how to facilitate “good” debate and use critical thinking, rather than allowing conversation to disintegrate into purely emotion-driven argument with little to no basis on fact. While some people gravitate toward manipulating emotion or forming relationship-driven arguments, others make use only of facts. I explore the benefits of both, and how we can find middle ground. This and more on Shut Up!

Jimmy Cheek remembers a career full of challenges, but not regrets

Former UT Chancellor Jimmy Cheek reminisced on his career during his final lecture on Monday, Feb. 27 in the Toyota Auditorium of the Howard H. Baker, Jr. Center for Public Policy.

His lecture focused on some of the obstacles he faced in his tenure as UT Chancellor and throughout his lifetime. “I found out that it’s very important to have people that you can depend on,” Cheek said. “Not just at your university, but at other universities that you can call on, bounce ideas off of.”

Cheek, a first generation college student from Texas, spoke of his time at Texas A&M University. He said his family was surprised when he told them that he wanted to be a faculty member at a university after he graduated, but that they were always supportive.

Reflecting on his career, Cheek acknowledged that it was not always easy. He was sometimes met with opposition, cynicism and limited support. “I’d [say] that you learn a lot from positive experiences, but those negative experiences stick with you a lot longer,” he said. “We didn’t have the resources we needed, and so we worked hard on development. And through persistence, determination, a belief that we could do it and instilling hope in individuals, that’s how we overcame those things.”

He gave credit to students for pushing the university to be the best that it could be. “Quite frankly, our students were the most optimistic, and I was always pleased about that. They were always the most determined to improve the university.”

As cited by Cheek, UT’s graduation rate was around 60 percent when he took office. Now, it’s closer to 72 percent. Retention rates improved by about four points, to 87 percent. Many of the new programs aimed at improving these rates, as well as several construction projects on campus, were part of a larger plan to make the school a Top 25 public research university, a highly respected status obtained from US News and World Report rankings. The challenge to make it onto the list was accepted shortly after Cheek’s arrival at UT at the request of then-Governor Phil Bredesen. While UT has not yet made the Top 25, the university got a bit closer under Cheek’s leadership.

Does Cheek have regrets about his career, or wish he could do any part of it over again? “I really don’t think so. I have second-guessed things that we have done, I guess we could have done things differently, or I guess perhaps better,” he said. “We could have communicated better, or communicated more, but that’s all hindsight. I think we played the game as it came along, and we played as well as we could.”

Cheek was the seventh chancellor of the University of Tennessee, and held the position from 2009 until February of this year. He stepped down and was replaced by the University of Cincinnati’s Beverly Davenport earlier this month. Davenport was officially nominated for the chancellorship in November of 2016.

Edited by McKenzie Manning

Featured image by Faith Held

Eva Schloss emphasizes today’s need for acceptance in Knoxville visit

Eva Schloss, author, Holocaust survivor and Anne Frank’s stepsister, visited Knoxville on Feb. 21 with much to say to her audience at the Civic Auditorium.

In an interview led by local radio and television host Hallerin Hilton Hill, Schloss recalled her experiences from before, during and after her family went into hiding in 1944. She alluded to similarities between then and now in reference to today’s political climate.

Many expressed gratitude for Schloss’s visit, and said that they were left with plenty to think about. In closing, Schloss offered advice for the young people who made up a sizeable part of the audience.

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero gave opening remarks.

“These stories remind us that we are responsible to each other, and for each other,” she said. “These stories matter. They connect us to each other.”

Schloss was born in Vienna, Austria in 1929. She remembered an idyllic childhood, swimming in creeks, riding her bicycle and playing with Frank and her brother Heinz. Schloss and Frank knew each other for two years before their families went on the run from Nazi forces. It was not until some time after surviving, Jews were liberated from German death camps and that Schloss’s mother and Frank’s father were married.

When Schloss and her brother received the news from her father that they were to go into hiding, she was confused at first. She remembered asking her father, “What do you mean? Hiding, like the game? Like hide and seek?”

Unfortunately, it was far from a game, as history shows. Despite this, Schloss said, she hung on as long as she could, and recalling her childhood helped her make it through the horrors of the Holocaust. However, it could only take her so far.

“In the camp, I had hope. But afterwards, I had no hope, because this was just how life was going to be,”Schloss said. She recalled that she had thoughts of suicide at times because she had such trouble getting past the loss of her brother and father.

“I was so upset that the world would not let in Jewish people – like we see now, with refugees.”

Raeus Cannon, a Knoxville business owner who is Jewish herself, attended the event and shared her thoughts on the comparisons drawn between the past and the present.

“I’ve been horrified to see the country send people away that need help,” she said. “I had family that barely escaped the Holocaust, and I had family that I lost. So for me, this particular time and place in America is a very scary, scary place. I see a lot of similarities. And I’m glad she didn’t go into a lot of it, because I think it would have been difficult for her as a speaker in this community, but I think she did a very good job of being able to say, ‘This is the similarity that I see’, and leave it at that.”

Renee Pettigo, another audience member, has five grandchildren and expressed concern about the turn politics have taken recently. One grandchild is biracial, a second is autistic and a third has Down syndrome.

When Pettigo was young, the Jewish community center she attended regularly with her family was bombed. She told stories of facing many obstacles in her path, including being unable to join a sorority or date certain men when she was in college.

“[Anti-Semitism] was very prevalent, and nobody hid it. It just was. You worked around it,” Pettigo said. Perhaps due to these experiences, issues of acceptance have particular importance to her now.

“I am absolutely more likely now to hold my hand up and go, ‘That’s not okay. You don’t say that, that’s not acceptable’… And this woman coming and telling her story over and over again almost is a case of her holding her hand up, and going, ‘Excuse me… Pay attention…’,” she said. “For those of us that have walked down that path, we’re all going, ‘Hey, we know what this looks like.’ For people who have never experienced this, they’re going ‘This doesn’t affect me’, but they don’t understand that it does. Because it affects your children, and the community that you live in.”

Hill asked Schloss what she would tell young people of today if she were to offer a piece of advice. She answered his question without hesitation. “We are all one race: the human race.”

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

Featured Image by Faith Held

Experience Diversity Banquet promotes community acceptance, opens UT diversity dialogue

Preceding the presentation of the 2017 CCI Diversity Award to the Rev. Dr. Harold Middlebrook, the ninth annual Experience Diversity Banquet offered a parade of performances ranging from salsa and Laotian dancing to a capella singing on Friday, Feb. 17.

Hosted by the Diversity Student Leaders Society (DSLS) at Bearden Banquet Hall as a fundraiser for their organization, the night featured a top-notch dinner menu and wine selection to complement the evening’s entertainment. Chairs adorned with satin ribbons surrounded candlelit tables with fresh flower centerpieces.

DSLS Director, Alice Bowling Wirth, called it an “exclusive” affair, and at 35 dollars a seat, it was. But when Middlebrook took the stage, he knew exactly how to bring everyone in the room back down to earth.

Middlebrook attended Morehouse College in Atlanta the 1960s, where he met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He eventually found himself in Memphis, where he was active in several political action commissions. He helped coordinate King’s appearance in Memphis in support of a sanitation worker strike, and witnessed King’s assassination in person.

In 1986 Middlebrook founded the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration Commission of Greater Knoxville.

Middlebrook shared a powerful message, particularly notable after UT’s diversity office was stripped of funding last year.

“We are living in a time when state legislators want to return to what used to be. We’re living in a time when they don’t want campuses to talk about diversity. But I’ll tell you something,” he said. “ When they stand up and holler, and say ‘We’re gonna cut off the funds for the diversity program at the university… here [are individuals] that are number one, ignorant. But also, those people get a clannish mentality… They don’t want to be disturbed because anything that is different from what they are is challenging to them, and they don’t want to have to change. “

Nicholas Stokes, a sophomore in journalism at UT, acknowledged that diversity is essential.

“If everyone is the same, there is no reason to evolve,” he said. “If everyone… wants to be the same, walk the same walk of life and do the exact same things, then no one is experiencing new things. There is no substance being added to the world.”

Faith Howard, UT senior and DSLS president, felt that the banquet furthered the goal of promoting community acceptance of diversity.

“This event helps people see other cultures, and the guest speakers help us look at things from a different perspective. I think that’s just kind of powerful, and it speaks for itself,” she said. “We experienced so many different cultures tonight… And if you know about it, you can respect it. So I think that helps a lot.”

Middlebrook encouraged attendees to keep moving forward while assuring them that the battle is far from over.

“If you are not at the table, you suffer because your views are not heard or respected. And so as the fight for diversity moves on, it is so important that we must never forget that we need to be in the room, at the table… I came to tell you tonight, ain’t nobody gonna turn me around. I’m gonna keep on walking forward, I’m gonna keep on marching… and the struggle belongs to all of us,” he said. “Don’t worry – there’s another day coming… when all of us are going to join hands and say to this nation, ‘Nobody can divide us. Nobody can separate us. We are one!”

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

Featured image by Bradley Blackwelder

UT Provost urges international students to stay in U.S. amidst fears of Trump immigration ban

Interim Provost John Zomchick attended the Student Government Association town hall meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 1, to give a statement regarding the executive order placing a temporary ban on immigration from seven Middle Eastern countries.

“I know there is a lot of concern on campus because of changes that are coming fast from Washington, D.C. I know that we met with student government’s executive council over the weekend to try and talk about what we want to do to try and help our students here on campus, to make sure that they know that we are here to support you. We want to reach out to you and we ask you to reach out to us – we don’t always know what you need, but if you communicate with us, if it’s about the executive order on immigration, the best place to contact is the Center for International Education. So, Scott Cantrell there will help you. Of course, there’s also the Center for Health and Wellness if you are feeling stressed or anxious about these developments and how they affect you.

“What we are saying right now is that if you are from one of the seven countries that are covered under the executive order, we are urging you not to travel outside the United States, because at least for the next 90 days you will not be permitted to return to the United States. Those sorts of things are obviously not under our control, but what is under our control – and I hope you hear this – is our commitment to the health and well-being of every single student on this campus. That is a mission that we take very seriously, and I urge you to reach out to some of these folks that I have named, and you can also reach out to my office, at provost@utk.edu.

“We expect that more changes will be coming in the weeks ahead. We have no idea what those changes are. I hope you got the chance to read the Chancellor’s message that went out on Monday. In that message, he said quite clearly that our commitment to diversity, inclusiveness and civility is strong, and will remain strong. The presence of international students, and the diverse student body here – those are the things that make us exceptional in every way. We welcome you. We want you here. We see you as part of our Volunteer family. You are part of our Volunteer family. What family members do in times of crisis can’t always predict [sic] what comes from outside of the family. It could be something like a fire, as in Gatlinburg, recently – it could be an illness to a family member – but families draw together. Families are the first line of support in times of stress and in times of trouble. To the extent that we can be that for you, that’s what we want to be. And that’s the message that I want to give all of you, tonight.

“I realize that will have its limits, and some of you will still be anxious. Some of you will continue to worry about developments, but again, what I want to say is we will help you to the farthest extent that we can.

“…We continue to monitor what’s happening and what’s coming out of Washington, D.C., and we also continue to monitor what other institutions of higher education across the country are doing right now in response to the executive order. As you might imagine, there is a great range of responses and activity around that, and one of those is to talk about what kinds of legal support we could potentially extend to our international students and students who ask us for that help.”

Zomchick was asked if the University had plans for releasing any further statements, and answered, “At the moment, no. Not that I know of. We will have a meeting on Monday, and will talk more about that. As you know we are in transition, and we are waiting for a new leader to come to our campus. Chancellor Davenport will arrive here on February 15, and take over as the leader of the campus. She will begin then to set, I guess, the agenda, and she will decide what kind of statements are necessary.”

After finishing his statement and looking at the packed classroom of Haslam Business Building, Zomchick added, “Individuals who work for us and who go to school here have absolute freedom of speech, including whatever you think in your conscience is necessary to do, as long as you realize there could be consequences for whatever action you choose to take,” he said. “I hope we don’t have to – I hope we don’t go down that road.”

Zomchick’s statement was met with silence. Several student Senators and student body Vice President McKinsey Patterson were contacted for comment after the meeting, but all declined, with the exception of student Senator Sam England. England said, “If you look at how difficult it was for Dr. Zomchick to talk about this – it’s going to be even more difficult for us. This is a complicated issue, and as he said, still developing.”

Featured Image by Faith Held

Edited by McKenzie Manning