UTK unites against racism, promotes diversity

“Hate my guts, not my genes,” graduate student Margaret Cross said as she took her place to stand against hate.

Cross, along with other students, faculty and community members, gathered at the University of Tennessee Friday, Feb. 9 in a show of solidarity against racism. “United at the Rock Against Racism” invited the UT community to leave its mark on the Rock, a campus staple and free speech forum. Each handprint represented campus unity, a university vision.

“It feels like a physical representation of the community,” Crystall-Marie Alperson said. “Hand in hand we stand together and we are together.”

The Student Government Association, Faculty Senate and the UTK Campus Ministries Council organized the event. Athletic teams, academic departments and individuals gathered to celebrate love and unity.

“We have a very diverse team, and I think it is really important that, as an athletic department and a university, we celebrate diversity. It is really important for us to spread love and not hate,” UT Volleyball team member Alyssa Andreno said.

Supporters filled Volunteer Boulevard which closed to traffic during the event.

Earlier this week, Chancellor Beverly Davenport sent an email to the UT community condemning racism and hate. Davenport spoke to attendees at the Rock to further her message.

“I wanted to come today to make clear the University of Tennessee views. Our views about unity, our views about peace, our views about acceptance, our views about what kind of future we want. That is what I want us to celebrate,” Davenport said.

During Davenport’s address, she turned to 7-year-old Reed Burgin and asked if he knew why everyone gathered at the Rock.

“[We are here] to not hate people for the color of their skin or where they are from,” Burgin said.

Before the event, Chancellor Davenport sent another message to address a white supremacist group’s intent to speak on campus Feb. 17.

“I want to let you know that after consultation between UTPD and senior advisors, we have decided that this group will not be allowed to use McClung Museum due to safety and security concerns,” Davenport said.

Davenport encouraged students to “get involved, get informed, and take care of each other.”

Following Chancellor Davenport’s speech, the UTK Campus Ministries Council organized a brief vigil. Vigil attendees raised their voices in song as the Rev. John Tirro and Dr. Loneka Battiste led “Draw the Circle Wide.”

“No one stands alone, we’ll stand side by side. Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.”

Featured Image by Ainsley Kelso

Video by Ainsley Kelso

Edited by Lexie Little

No. 23 Tennessee wins third in a row at home against No. 17 Kentucky

No. 23 Tennessee (10-4, 1-2 SEC) took down No. 17 Kentucky (12-3, 2-1 SEC) by a score of 76-65 to register its first SEC win of the season. Junior Admiral Schofield and sophomore Grant Williams combined for 38 points, 17 rebounds, eight assists and six steals in the Vols upset win over the Wildcats.

Kentucky seemed to have Tennessee all, but spiraling after one half of play, as the Wildcats led 37-29 at halftime. The Wildcats shot a smooth 56 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond-the-arc at half. Meanwhile, the Volunteers shot 33 percent from the field and committed eight turnovers.

A pair of Wenyen Gabriel 3-pointers put Kentucky on a 9-0 run with 7:51 remaining in the first half. However, Schofield knocked down a 3-pointer to cut the deficit to three with just over four minutes remaining in the first half. Still, the Wildcats were able to pull away, entering the half on a 9-4 run.

“Coach Lanier did a good job of, because he scouted the game, showing us 11 points that came off of not following our scouting report,” said Barnes about what changed after the first half.

“They’re going to make some baskets, just like we make baskets, but you don’t want them making the ones where we fail to execute our game plan.”

The game plan that Barnes and his staff used clearly worked, as they were able to flip the script in the second half. Tennessee outscored the Wildcats 47-28 in the second half, and shot a remarkable 55 percent from the field. The Vols were able to come out of the gates quick with a 6-0 run that closed the deficit.

A layup from Kentucky’s Nick Richards put the Wildcats up 47-44 on Tennessee, but what followed would be the turning point in the game. The Volunteers answered by logging nine straight points and going on a 16-3 run that put them up 10 points with just over eight minutes remaining. Late foul trouble for the Wildcats, as well as an injury to Kentucky’s star play played in favor for the Vols.

The Wildcats had five players that finished with over three fouls in the contest and two that fouled out. Gabriel, who had 11 points in the game, fouled out with 12 minutes remaining in the game. Starting Kentucky forward PJ Washington (13 points), who was clearly the best player on the floor, went down early in the second half.

“As soon as we had PJ out of the game, we had no shot at winning because every one of their players at that point was tougher than our guys,” said Wildcats head coach John Calipari. “When PJ went down, they saw the wounded animal and went right at it.”

The loss of Washington was just enough to let Tennessee hold on to the win. The Vols were able to make their free throws as Schofield slammed home a massive dunk with 23 seconds left to put a nail in the coffin for Kentucky. Tennessee out-rebounded the Wildcats 37-30, which is the most they have been out-rebounded by all season. Also, Tennessee recorded assists on 23 of its 25 baskets and had an assist rate of 92 percent on the night.

“We are Tennessee. Nobody respects us. We haven’t done anything, we haven’t won anything, and we haven’t been in the tournament in years,” Schofield said. “We have to just go out and compete every night, no matter if we are ranked or not because it’s just a number.”

Edited by Ben McKee

Featured image courtesy of Tennessee Athletics 

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

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

Sister March occupies Circle Park to shine light on issues

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Approximately 250 activists paraded through UT donning signs and chanting messages in support of women and minority rights on Friday, Jan 20.

The route was from the Humanities Amphitheater, to Andy Holt Dr., past the Aquatics Center, left on UT drive to Volunteer Blvd. where it came to an end under the eternal flame of the Torchbearer.

Activists addressed issues with access to healthcare, reproductive rights, racial justice, economic justice, transgender rights and LGBT rights. Activists were encouraged to share their message of “why they’re here” to the rest of the group with a loudspeaker.

“Regardless of harsh and divisive rhetoric that we’ve seen from our President-Elect and his administration we’re just trying to send a message of positivity,” Feroza Freeland, president of College Democrats, said. “We were really excited to take this opportunity with everything that’s going on right now, with the inauguration being today we just are really here to spread a positive message of inclusion and of support for women’s rights, rights for minorities and inclusion and acceptance for everyone.”

The group was quick to note that the protest was not focused on Anti-Trump rhetoric, but on being an inclusive march that supports all human rights. The event was a self-proclaimed activity of uniting women and women’s rights supporters from different stages of life on the issues.

According to Kimberly Peterson, member of the Women’s March on Washington East Tennessee Chapter, women have forgotten the legacy of so many others that have come before them.

“We have these women that have done so much that we’ve gotten a little bit complacent. We made so much progress, but we forgot that legacy. It’s a responsibility,” Peterson said. “We are charged for keeping the fight moving forward for all the people that come after us.”

The march served as an outlet for community members who do not have the opportunity to attend the larger Women’s March on Washington that is taking place Saturday, Jan. 21 in Washington D.C. The event is expected to garner thousands of individuals from every corner of the nation.

The East Tennessee Chapter of Women’s March on Washington has organized another event for 12:30 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 21 in Market Square to show support for the larger movement. At least 400 people are expected to attend.


Featured Image and Video by McKenzie Manning

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo