Students participate in Spring Hoedown, support new scholarship fund

UT students danced to show their support for a new scholarship for college hopefuls on Thursday at the Spring Hoedown.

This event was open to any UT student as long as they were 18 years or older, according to Brigitte Passman, President of the Spring Hoedown.

“We’re trying to raise money to start a scholarship fund for any upcoming UT students that show a need for the scholarship.  The scholarship will be hosted through an endowment through the Tennessee 4-H foundation,” she said.

The entry fee was $3 if RSVP’d, otherwise, it was a $4 at the door. All entry fees are in support of the fund.

“It’s the first annual Hoedown, and it’s something we hope to continue every year to help high school students get into college,” Passman said.

Though the evening started slow, with only around a dozen students at the start of the event, but it quickly doubled in size and remained that way for the rest of the event.

Over 30 UT students and staff were on the dancefloor at once, dancing to hits such as “Ice Ice Baby,” “Footloose” and “Rocky Top.”

Some of UT’s cheerleaders were on the dancefloor, waving their pompoms around and showing off some of their routines. During “Rocky Top”, they cheered their best and encouraged everyone to follow their lead.

Other activities were available for those who didn’t feel like dancing. The Sigma Alpha sorority sold various baked goods, from brownies to small cakes for 50 cents, and a hacky sack game was set up on the sidelines of the dance floor.

Other activities included a boot decorating contest, and a later square dancing contest. Oakley Perry, an agricultural leadership education and communication double-major, who also serves as the Vice President of the Spring Hoedown was the DJ.

While Perry did manage the music, he acted as the dance leader of a lot of the dances by demonstrating to less experienced dancers how some of the old classics were done.  He showed some new students how to dance along to “Footloose,” and danced with the cheerleading squad to “Ice Ice Baby.”

Dr. Arthur Leal, assistant professor of Agricultural Leadership Education and Communications was the sponsor of the event.

For more information on the Hoedown, click here.

Featured image obtained through creative commons, courtesy of GifTagger

Featured video by Thomas Ferrell

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo


Hindu films’ religious undertones play important role in religious education

Nithi Clicks

Hindi films are a unique and accessible way to learn about Indian and Hindi faith, according to professor of Indian Cultures, Rachel Dwyer.

“What’s interesting with these films is that they are only loosely defined as religious, but have clearly defined Hindu practices,” said Dwyer.

As a professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema at the University of London, Dwyer supervises PhD research on Indian Cinema. Her focus is Hindi Cinema.

One of the films touched on was “PK”, a satirical Indian sci-fi film. It is the highest-grossing Indian film of all time, and received critical acclaim as a Hindi film. “…the plot covers an alien trying to untangle Indian-Muslim relations in contemporary India, and it featured a super-star Aamir Khan in the title role. Aamir Khan is recognized as a social activist.” said Dwyer. “PK” was also directed by one of India’s most successful directors.

The importance of the film was its stance on Hindu-Muslim relations, which remains a relatively sore topic of discussion. “What films like this do is talk about things that people don’t necessarily want to hear about, but in the context of humor and light conversation,” said Dwyer.

These films were presented as an example of how Indian popular culture can show differences in religion from film to film. “These films reflect our country as a whole, as we have an obviously Hindu nationalist government. It is a guide to the history of Indian culture, and the history of how religion impacts India,” explained Dwyer.

After the lecture, David Boyd, majoring in economics, said “I think it’s important to understand the impact these films can have. Relating to my major, it’s important to know that consumers are interested in consuming media from other cultures and countries.”

Dwyer’s other research includes the Asian elephant in India, and its appearances in cinema, religion, and literature. Her written works include: “Picture abhi baaki hai: Bollywood as a guide to modern India,” “Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema” and “100 Bollywood Films.”

More information on Rachel Dwyer can be found here.

More information on “PK” and Hindu Cinema can be found in Dwyer’s article.


Edited by McKenzie Manning

Featured image by Nithi Clicks via 



Survivor urges more education on HIV, inisists it’s the first step to prevention

Students gathered in the Alumni Memorial Building to listen to HIV survivor, Hydeia Broadbent, speak about HIV and its relevance in student life on Tuesday, Feb. 28.

HIV is at its most dangerous when it isn’t talked about and properly identified to students in colleges and high schools, according to Broadbent.

“The first step to prevention for HIV negatives is to talk about it. The most dangerous part of HIV is being uneducated about it,” said Broadbent.

Broadbent was born with HIV, but wasn’t diagnosed with HIV until it had progressed to AIDS at the age of 3. Shortly after being diagnosed herself, it was discovered that her entire biological family was infected.

Instead of feeling insecure about it, she has been from very proactive with her doctor in spreading awareness and a message of hope through her own experiences by talking about it.

“It started when I was clearly proactive about it with my doctor. Eventually, he was like, ‘Do you want to come with me to give lectures about it on a first hand basis?’ Of course, I was totally for it,” Hydeia said.

Hydeia recommended a bi-yearly Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) examination for sexually active people, and a yearly STI examination for those who aren’t sexually active. She told her story as a story of survival and self-education.

“The biggest concern with those infected with HIV AIDS is actually not the disease itself, but the weakening of the immune system that follows. Any disease can be deadly for someone with HIV, so whenever someone sneezes or coughs in front of me and doesn’t cover their mouth, I’m like… ‘Get away’,” Broadbent joked.

The remainder of her talk was a message of hope to HIV positive people. Recommendations ranged from living a normal life, to doing anything possible to alleviate pain and reduce possibility of infection. Hydeia encouraged openness and honesty about status, in order to ensure safety and happiness for both negative and positive status people.

HIV and AIDS awareness day is March 10. For more information on HIV and what signs to look for, visit this website.


Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

Featured Image by Thomas Ferrell

Dr. Moersh explains the evolution of drone technology, discusses usage on Earth-like landscapes

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, or UAV’s, may soon be common use to study various Earth-like landscapes.

Dr. J.E. Moersh spoke on Friday about how drone technology is evolving into a more sophisticated craft, and will soon be advanced enough to start testing in non terrestrial atmospheres.

“These little guys hold a camera better than we can, and fly around a grid and map out an area in about three times less the time we would take,” Moersh said.

At the start of the lecture, Moersh passed around his own personal drone, showing the audience were the camera dock was, and explained that even as the drone itself shook and adjusted to wind during flight, the camera itself never wavered and provided a perfectly still image.

He then proceeded to show the audience various drone models in action through video, showing landscapes of various countries and continents.

In regards to how hard it is to have permission to fly them, Moersh said, “It was actually almost impossible to fly them in any parks in the U.S., but abroad, they were mostly all for it. We got the footage and testing we needed, and in return, they got a 3D map of their own territory.  It was a win-win.”

When it came to Mars, he explained that it would be relatively easy to start testing drone flight on mars through simulation and through testing in our own atmosphere.

“Mars has the 1/3rd of the atmospheric density we have here on Earth.  Flown high enough in our own atmosphere, it wouldn’t be hard to replicate those conditions,” said Moersh.

After the lecture, Amanda Womac, an attendee, said, “This could be how research is conducted in the future, with drones in the field and scientists in the lab.”

For more Science Forum lecture information, visit this website.

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

Featured Image by Ryan McGill

’13th:’ Racism never ended, it only evolved

According to “13th,” a 2016 documentary viewed in Alumni Memorial on Tuesday, Feb. 21, African Americans made the swift transition from slave to criminal with the passage of the 13th Amendment.

The documentary focused on the central idea that racism never left, it only evolved and changed face as time passed. Beginning with slavery, racism evolved into segregation and eventually a disproportionately large incarcerated black population. The disenfranchisement of the entire black population in America began with historic racially discriminatory trends like lynching, Jim Crow and the war on drugs.

While the 13th Amendment did abolish classic slavery, it did not protect anyone convicted of a crime from being treated as a slave. The showing covered everything from the rebuilding of the south, to the current issue of mass incarceration.

According to the documentary, the United States has the largest prison population per capita. One in three African-American males will see jail-time in their lifetime, while only one in 17 white males will ever see any jail-time.

Even as slavery was abolished, the South was able to take advantage of a loophole written in the 13th Amendment. Explicitly, the amendment states that “Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”

After the war, the South started arresting newly freed slaves on any petty crimes they could think of. They used the new arrested “convicts” as labor to rebuild the South. It was revealed that the South, even though it lost a large part of its economic strength through the loss of slavery, was still able to rebuild on the backs of the African-American population.

The documentary recapped the Civil Rights movement, explaining that the effectiveness of that movement stemmed from the fact that there were more ways to put the treatment of African-Americans in the spotlight, be it through photograph or through video.

At the time, celebrated leaders like Malcom X and Martin Luther King, Jr., were regarded as criminals, and the United States government actively tried to discredit their work and their movement.

The documentary denounced the current justice system, not only bringing to light the police shootings of last year, but also explaining that now, many arrestees are discouraged from going to trial. Instead, they are pressured to take plea deals in order to help justify the way they were treated. Ninety-seven percent of arrestees do not see trial, choosing the easier way out instead.

The documentary also denounced the monetization of the jail system, claiming that an organization called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), is influencing profit from correctional facilities. The documentary presented facts against ALEC, showing that corporations were funding and influencing politics.

After the documentary, Dr. James Williams, assistant professor at the University of Tennessee, spoke to the audience, explaining that he himself had grown up in the conditions described by the documentary.

“At 12 years old, I was selling crack on the street,” Williams said. “I saw the life. I lived it, and I’m very fortunate to have grown out of it.”

Courtney Shephard, an attendee, said, “The first step in solving a problem is recognizing that there is one. We start here, in the schools, with an open and educated discussion about it.”

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

Featured Image by Thomas Ferrell

Climatologist highlights major factors in Gatlinburg wildfires

Dr. Henri D. Grissino-Mayer insisted that there were lessons to be learned from Gatlinburg, Tennessee’s November 2016 wildfires.

Though two teenagers have been charged for aggravated arson in the wildfire case, Grissino-Mayer claimed that it was “only a matter of time” before the blaze occurred. The fire’s swift spread was due to four key factors: Wind, building material, drought and difficult access for firefighters.

Weather awareness and new building materials to rebuild with could be key in preventing another disaster. According to Grissino-Mayer, a major factor of the sweeping devastation was the flammability of the buildings in Gatlinburg because the city was made of “wood, wood, and wood.”

With the drought working in tandem with high winds, flames only spread faster as the fire approached Gatlinburg.

“I went to bed, and the fire was about 4 miles from Gatlinburg. The next morning, three people were dead,” Grissino-Mayer said.

However, Grissino-Mayer was insistent that fires are a natural part of the environment. He highlighted numerous plants in Appalachia that required fire to survive, reproduce or thrive.

“First and foremost,” Grissino-Mayer said, “fire is a part of our natural ecosystem, no matter how you look at it…[fire] has been for hundreds of millennia.”

Knoxville resident Lynn Davis expressed her appreciation for the lecturer. “I’m glad someone is taking the time to dissect the causes of this disaster,” Davis said, “I’ve lived in Gatlinburg myself, and every time something like this happens, they rebuild again with more wood cabins. It’s like no lessons are drawn, but hopefully this time will be different.”

More information about future UT Science Forum meetings can be found here.


Edited by McKenzie Manning

Featured image by Thomas Ferrell