Over the years UT has seen an influx of vandalism, hate speech and racism.
We have seen our fellow African American students degraded in taunting and spite filled images of students in blackface. With a caption that read, “We for racial equality boys. Bout to get this free college now that I’m black. lets goooooo #blacklives matter.” Randy Boyd, UT President, responded on Twitter.
I appreciate @UTKnoxville and its swift response to yesterday’s unacceptable Snapchat photo. One of the strengths of UT is its people—students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Let us stand together and recommit ourselves to caring, support and respect for all.
— UT System President Randy Boyd (@UT_President) March 1, 2019
Students responded by marching and vowing change would come to campus.
“Change must occur,” UT student Justine Hill said. “We must be the change. If we want to see it happen we must make it happen.”
We have seen our Pride Center be vandalized multiple times. In addition, UT is now the second most unfriendly school for LGBTQ+ students in the nation according to the Princeton Review. The pride flag was torn and hate speech that read, “(F-slur) gets aids more often.” Windows in the Pride Center were smashed spewing hate with each shard that fell.
The University responded with declarations of change to come and condemning hate on our campus.
Incidents like this have no place on our campus. A bias incident report has been filed, and UTPD is investigating.
— UT Knoxville (@UTKnoxville) September 6, 2016
Vandalism and hate-speech are some of the reasons the Pride Center began Safe Zone in 2018.
We have seen the Rock repeatedly slandered with nazi swastikas as well as hate-speech on 9-11 in 2019. The rock read, “Jews did 9-11. Google Dancing Israelies.” UT Chancellor Plowman responded.
“We condemn the acts of hate aimed toward our Jewish community, and we understand that words aren’t enough,” Chancellor Plowman said.
Member of the UTK Jewish organization Hillel responded by covering the hate on the Rock with the words, “Stronger than Hate.”
What About Change?
All of this is only a small portion of the hate speech and slander seen on UT’s campus. However, all of these events have something in common. The University promises to bring change that will put an end to hate on campus. However, all that seems to be left is empty promises.
It is for these reasons that the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Student Government Association is calling upon UT to put their words into action. In a stream of recent videos on SGA’s Instagram, they call upon UT to institute the changes that will make a positive impact against racism and bigotry on campus.
The University of Tennessee Student Code of Conduct has been under revision since 2018. SGA was given a role in revising this code to be more efficient in dealing with hate speech, harassment and discrimination on campus. The changes proposed by the student body were overwhelmingly approved and vowed to make the statement, “welcoming to all, hostile to none,” ring true.
However, UTK Administration said that SGA proposals and changes will not be used nor entertained by the Board of Trustees. SGA wrote down their call to action and made it accessible to UT students.
“Students have borne witness to atrocities from hate groups over the last few years with no legislative changes from the administration. This is unacceptable, and we have a duty to inform the student body of this neglect and further lobby for its interests,” SGA wrote. “The appropriate changes called for by students and for students MUST be completed by UT administration and the Tennessee legislature by the beginning of the Spring semester January 20th, 2021.”
In two videos recently released featuring SGA members, they call upon UT to implement these changes and listen to students’ voices. Student Body President, Karmen Jones also speaking vastly on the subject.
It’s Time UT
“This campaign for change, called ‘It’s Time UT’ is a student-led initiative that was founded on the promise that our SGA administration would bring change,” Jones said. “And it is my hope that I can bring clarity to what this moment is for all of us as UT students.”
Jones also stated that SGA is elected by students and they will continue to represent UT students.
“When this SGA administration was elected, we ran on a platform of inclusion and change,” Jones said. “Student code reform was not some empty campaign promise we fed you in order to get into office. We meant it then and we mean it now.”
Jones also said that there will be more videos and things to come featuring students who have been affected by hate on campus. SGA also encourages students to contact UT administration and share how they feel about the Student Code of Conduct Revisions. They also ask students to use the #itsTimeUT hashtag to raise awareness.
“I cannot emphasize this enough. This SGA administration serves at the pleasure of the student body,” Jones said. “So please contact us with any questions you may have on this topic, or if you would like to get involved with this movement, let us know.”
Edited by Madalyn Torres and Ryan Sylvia
Featured photo courtesy of @utksga Instagram