Students hold class walkout to protest cuts to diversity funding

On Tuesday, April 19, students and faculty walked out of their classes in protests to the recent bill that strips the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, of funds that would go towards diversity programs on campus.

The walkout was planned for 1:40 p.m. exactly. Students and faculty met in the Humanities and Social Sciences amphitheater.

The protest began with student leaders explaining what the event was about and what was going to take place. UT junior Thomas Tran said the event was an extension to all of the other methods the UT Diversity Matters Coalition has taken to emphasize the importance of the diversity programs on campus.

“We’ve been doing this the right way, according to the UT administration,” Tran said. “We’ve had four meetings with them now. We’ve gone to Nashville. We’ve called legislators. We’ve made progress with all of that. But still, the problem is on this campus.”

Senior Johnathon Clayton said UT administration has shown disregard for the issues students of marginalized groups face.

More than 200 students attended the protest.
More than 200 students attended the protest.

“We’re here today to show them that we care and that we demand that they change,” Clayton said.

Afterwards, senior JT Taylor gave participants instructions for the next steps. Taylor told students that for the next ten minutes, those who are physically able and comfortable would lie down on Pedestrian Walkway and perform a “die-in.” Those who were not able to lie down would stand over their peers in solidarity.

Students chanted while they performed the die-in.
Students chanted while they performed the die-in.

Taylor told students to be mindful of the students who were walking on Pedestrian Walkway and that the aim was not to harm anyone.

“We are not in the business of trying to hurt other students who are not engaged with us right now,” Taylor said. “We are simply trying to let them know that we are hurting and that the administration has not been showing up for us.

After students performed the die-in, the group marched through Hess Hall and the Presidential Court Building and into the Presidential Court courtyard, where they gathered in a circle and continued chanting.

When they were in the Presidential Court courtyard, sophomore George Habeib had the white students stand in the center and had students of color stand around them. He said the exercise was to show the disparity between what the UT administration considers to be “diversity” and what students on campus actually experience.

“Do you all see what’s wrong with this picture?” Habeib asked.

Afterwards, students were given a lecture on white privilege and how it affects white students and students of color on campus.

To end the protest, Kristen Godfrey, the graduate assistant for the Pride Center, announced that the UT Diversity Matters Coalition would be holding their last meeting with administration on April 20, at 3:45 p.m. in room 334 of the Haslam Business Building.

“We really need you guys to come and show that there are so many people behind this,” Godfrey said.

Images courtesy of Courtney Anderson

Edited by Ben Webb

Campaigns debate, make cases for election

The Student Government Association (SGA) held the live debate for the presidential and vice-presidential candidates on April 4 in the Howard Baker Center.

The debate featured opening statements from both the presidential and vice-presidential candidates before launching into the questions. Questions were submitted through social media beforehand.

The vice-presidential candidates were first to debate. The candidates described the goals of their campaigns in the opening statements.

“This campaign is working for genuine dialogue for all students,” vice-presidential candidate Fuller Edwards of the Challenge campaign said.

McKinsey Patterson, of the Hollingsworth-Patterson campaign, said she was running because believed the students of UT have a genuine love for one another and a desire to be “pursued.” Matthew Morris, of the Hardee-Morris-McCandless campaign, said that he wants the voices of all students to be heard.

Topics of the vice-presidential portion of the debate ranged from experience of the candidates, their plans for increasing participation in first year councils, supporting the LGBT+ community on campus, filling the member-at-large seats in SGA, choosing senators for their campaigns and the recent tobacco bill.

“It’s very important to make sure SGA is a voice for the students, not to the students. And the first step in doing that is making sure SGA is representative of campus as a whole,” Edwards said in regards to filling the member-at-large seats.

“One thing we’re really looking for in our senators is for students who are aware of the issues on this campus,” Morris said.

When asked about her lack of SGA experience, Patterson said that she believed leadership is “stronger than policy” and she was not worried.

“I’m a smart lass,” Patterson said. “I can catch up pretty quickly.”

When discussing ways to support the LGBT+ community on campus, Patterson stressed building consistent relationships with marginalized students and Morris emphasized creating dialogues that would help students understand the issues the community faces. Edwards talked about advocating for bills SGA passes that affect the LGBT+ community.

“If we pass a bill and the administrations says no, that’s not going to be the end. It will be the beginning,” Edwards said.

The candidates discussed the recent tobacco bill and how they handled the split in public opinion. Edwards emphasized that he was against the bill because constituents were against it and challenged Morris’s vote on the bill.

“I’ll never let my personal opinions stand in the way of a bill that helps the student body,” Morris said.

The presidential candidates then began their portion of the debate. The candidates discussed the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the proposed “Wet Weekends” policy,  sexual assault prevention on campus and student relationships with the UT administration.

Alex Pennycuff, presidential candidate for the Challenge campaign, emphasized safety when discussing the proposed change in alcohol policies.

“You don’t make UT a wet campus to create a culture of binge drinking,” Pennycuff said.

Jennings Hardee, presidential candidate for the Hardee-Morris-McCandless campaign, argued the feasibility of a change in alcohol policy, saying that there is inconsistency currently.

When discussing the incident following the release of a post of holiday party suggestions by the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Pennycuff said he did not support the “holiday bill” because students he talked to did not support it.

When discussing sexual assaults on campus, Hardee discussed her plans for a campus-wide initiative involving red flag zones and sexual assault education. Hardee also said that in order for students and administration to work together, they need to maintain a positive relationship with one another.

Carson Hollingsworth, presidential candidate of the Hollingsworth-Patterson campaign, emphasized students’ feelings about participation on campus.

“Students need to feel valued and pursued on campus,” Hollingsworth said.

The debate winded down with a discussion of the sick raccoons on campus and the closing statements from the presidential candidates.

Students can vote at votesga.utk.edu from April 5 to April 7.

Featured image by Thomas Delgado

Edited by Jessica Carr

SGA profile: Hardee Morris McCandless wants to create common ground

The SGA election is fast approaching with voting starting on April 5 and ending on April 7. With only a few days left until students cast their votes, three campaigns are running, with each trying to distinguish itself and earn students’ votes.

One campaign is the Hardee-Morris-McCandless campaign, comprised of Jennings Hardee running for president, Matthew Morris running for vice president and Caitlyn McCandless running for student services director.

If you were to ask any one of the candidates what is most important to them, he/she are mostly likely to say “the people.” One quick look through the campaign’s Facebook page shows this sentiment. Presidential candidate Hardee said that getting along with people is one of the most interesting talents she has.

“I’m really good at finding things in common with people,” Hardee said.

Finding things in common in people is an ability that has helped crafted the entire Hardee Morris McCandless campaign. After all, the slogan is “Creating Common Ground.” Connecting with students is the main objective. The connection between students is also something Hardee loves most about UT.

“My favorite thing about UT is that you have the ability to find your own community,” Hardee said. “No matter what you like, you can find other people who like it too.”

Each of the candidates are juniors. Hardee (left) is a Chemistry major, while Morris (center) majors in Political Science and McCandless (right) majors in Supply Chain Management.
Each of the candidates are juniors. Hardee (left) is a Chemistry major, while Morris (center) majors in Political Science and McCandless (right) majors in Supply Chain Management.

Through joining those communities, Hardee has built many relationships with students and organizations on campus, which is something she greatly values. She said she has also learned how to be more open-minded through her memorable experiences at UT.  

“I honestly think it’s been really inspiring to hear from other groups,” Hardee said.

One such experience was the T ceremony for the Ignite summer program, for which Hardee was a team leader. She said that experience meant a lot to her because she go to see how much the participants had grown in just a few days.

Another notable experience Hardee has had at UT is the time an administrator walked in on her changing clothes. Hardee cites it as the funniest thing that has happened her as a student.

“I was changing clothes in the bathroom on the second floor of the old UC and an administrator just came in and saw me,” Hardee recalled with a laugh. “And she was like, ‘Oh, hey Jennings!’”

Hardee took it in stride. Her ability to laugh at that moment is evidence of the “optimism but also realism” she hopes the Hardee-Morris-McCandless imparts on campus. Hardee said while there is no one way to make all the problems go away overnight, there are ways students can work towards a better campus.

The Hardee-Morris-McCandless campaign has a lot of plans to work towards improving the campus if they are elected. Their campaign includes sexual assault prevention, creating accessibility maps for campus, crime-prevention in the Fort, issue-specific roundtables for members of SGA, regular campus dinners and creating a Mental Health week during mid-terms.

Hardee said she has also has a plan in case she loses the election.

“I said that if I lose I’m going to get a cat for the weekend to make myself feel better,” she said.  

Images courtesy of the Hardee Morris McCandless Facebook page

Edited by Jessica Carr

Club Week: African Student Association works to educate students

The average University of Tennessee student may not know much about the continent of Africa. The images of Africa that are portrayed in the media may give many the impression that Africa is a place characterized by poverty and conflict, with similar cultures across the continent.

But to Cindy Anku, senior and president of UT’s African Student Association, Africa is not only what people may see in the news.

“There are so many different people, cultures in Africa,” Anku said. “You can’t really group us all as one. We want to help people understand that Africa is more than what is projected in the media.”

This dedication to revealing the diversity of Africa drives the members of the African Student Association (ASA). The ASA was founded in 1987 by Amadou Sall, who is now a lecturer in Africana Studies and the faculty advisor for the ASA.

According to the Anku, the group strives to “bridge the gap between Knoxville and the Africans in Knoxville.”

One of the major values of the ASA is providing education to students and community members. The ASA hosts forums, culture nights, visits churches and invites speakers to campus in order to spread more accurate information about the various cultures in Africa. The group wants to highlight the positive aspects of the continent that may not be regularly portrayed in the media.

The ASA also works to connect with African students and community members who have just arrived to the area and are in need of a community.

This connection was definitely important for Anku. She joined the group when she was freshmen who was looking for other African students on campus. Anku said she took a flyer for the ASA and went to the first general meeting in the fall semester of 2012.

When members of the executive board were set to graduate, Anku, who had become secretary after some time in the group, was nominated to become president. She was elected and has been president for a year.

Anku believes the group has been accomplishing a lot in the past year, despite having difficulty recruiting new students to join.

“We’ve gotten more consistent with events. We do really have committed members,” Anku said.

The ASA holds socials and movie nights to help foster feelings of community among Africans in Knoxville. The group also holds special events to help members get to know each other. In the past couple of months, the group has roasted s’mores over the flame of the Torchbearer, hosted a Valentine’s Day dinner and held its annual retreat Friday, Feb. 26 through Sunday, Feb. 28 in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

According to Anku, the ASA will continue to provide educational events to students, with help from the ideas of other African associations from colleges around the country.

The ASA meets Mondays at 7 p.m. in the International House community room. More information can be found at the group’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

Featured image courtesy of the African Student Association Facebook page

Edited by Jessica Carr

Senate panel votes to remove state funding for UT diversity

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The state Senate Education Committee voted to remove the state funding for the University of Tennessee’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion on Wednesday, March 2.

The amendment, proposed by Sen. Dolores Gresham, R-Somerville, would require that the Office of Diversity and Inclusion would only receive federal funding. The bill was passed unanimously.

This amendment comes after months of controversy surrounding the office of Diversity and Inclusion and its vice chancellor, Rickey Hall.  In September, the office came under scrutiny after the post suggesting students incorporate gender-neutral pronouns into their interactions with other students. Tennessee lawmakers began discussing cutting funding for diversity programs in December after an article with suggestions on making holiday parties non-religious was posted to the Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s website.

A bill to limit funding for the program to $2.5 million, written by Sen. Frank Niceley, had recently been referred to the Senate Education Committee in January.

The amendment would also transfer $8 million from UT’s administration. $5 million would go to the Agricultural Extension Service, $3 million would go to UT Chattanooga and UT Martin for rural outreach programs.

UT currently spends $5 million annually on diversity and inclusion, with $3.7 million of that amount going to programs and events that are held on campus and $1.3 million going to compliance with federal law.

The amendment will have to receive approval from the full Senate and House before it officially goes into effect.

Featured image by Ryan McGill

Edited by Ben Webb

Fraternity closed for hazing, operational violations

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The University of Tennessee’s chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha is closing due to hazing practices.

The fraternity board of directors decided to suspend the chapter, effective Feb. 22. Members on campus may not represent the fraternity, display the symbols or emblems or hold meetings in the name of the fraternity.

According to a news release, director of Chapter Services Nick Zuniga said the hazing incidents and operational violations took place over a span of three years.

“Lambda Chi Alpha has a zero tolerance policy in regard to hazing and this closure imposes the appropriate penalty given the circumstances,” Zuniga said.

The Lambda Chi Alpha house will also be closing. Current members must move out by March 6. The chapter will have to stay closed for a minimum of five years.

According to the fraternity’s site, the Epsilon Omicron chapter has initiated almost 2,400 members and currently has 100 members. The chapter was officially installed on March 30, 1932, by the Omega Zeta chapter at Auburn University. Epsilon Omicron was No. 117 in the lineup of Lambda Chi Alpha chapters to receive a charter.

Featured image by Ryan McGill

Edited by Hannah Hunnicutt