UT’s homecoming parade returns to Cumberland Avenue

For the first time in 30 years, the University of Tennessee’s annual homecoming parade returned to historic Cumberland Avenue, according to UT’s homecoming page.

Over the past century, Cumberland Avenue has adapted to fit the new locals as the university began to grow with several restaurants, bars, fast food chains and apartment complexes.

Former UT quarterback Josh Dobbs returned for the parade and walked in the Little Vol Walk. Del and Dane Bryant, sons of Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, served as the grand marshals. Boudleaux and Felice Bryant wrote “Rocky Top,” the university’s unofficial fight song, 50 years ago.

To celebrate the parade’s return to Cumberland, many of the well-known food chains offered free food for the after-parade celebration.

Many of UT’s clubs and organizations were also featured in the parade along with Shriners International, UT alumni and others. UT fraternities and sororities were represented by floats each group constructed. The floats were judged and voted on by students on Instagram.

Many parade attendees stayed for a post-parade celebration.

While many people have attended the parade for years, it is still new for some.

“I came to the Homecoming Parade for the first-time last year,” Amy Hill, an attendee said. “I was very excited to see the parade on Cumberland Avenue this year, and I hope to continue coming to the parade for many years.”

Morgan, who did not want to include her last name, had never attended the parade before but hopes to see the parade in the years to come.

Images by Samantha Neal

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

UT’s 101st Homecoming Week kicks off Sunday

On Sunday, “Homecoming 101: Intro to Rocky Top” events will begin and continue throughout the week, leading up to the Homecoming parade from Circle Park to the Strip on Friday and the football game against the Golden Eagles of Southern Mississippi on Saturday.

For the first time in 30 years, the Homecoming parade is returning to Cumberland Ave.

Nate Hogan, president of the Student Homecoming Committee, says that the city of Knoxville asked for the parade route to be moved to the Strip to promote more local involvement.

“It will be nice to see the integration with the Knoxville community,” he said.

The Student Homecoming Committee is one of the many campus organizations that worked to plan various events.

According to Hogan, they began preparing for the events in March, and the University Homecoming Committee began planning this year’s Homecoming as soon as the last one ended.

There are 46 individual events taking place all over campus over the span of next week. One of which is the Slime Trivia, which Hogan is particularly looking forward to.

“[The] Slime Trivia, which happens on Wednesday, is going to be where contestants will be asked trivia questions about random topics, some even UT related,” he continues, “and if they get it wrong, they get slimed!”

There will be other events throughout the week for students who do not want to get messy. On Monday, the Black Cultural Programming Committee will host the Homecoming Comedy Show, the Homecoming Fashion Show, which is hosted by People of Style and Education, will take place on Thursday and there will be number of tailgating events on game day. A full list of these events can be found on the Homecoming events page.

The parade on Friday will feature fierce float-creating competition between a number of student organizations, as well as the Little Vol Walk for children under 10-years-old to ride along in the parade and then head to Little Vols at the Ballpark afterwards. Leading the parade will be Del and Dane Bryant. Their parents were the acclaimed songwriters Boudleaux and Felice Bryant, who penned “Rocky Top”.

Due to the parade float line-up at 3 p.m., two lanes of Lake Loudoun Blvd will be closed for an hour. Shortly after that, Volunteer Blvd from Lake Loudoun Blvd to Cumberland Ave will be closed from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. Cumberland Ave will be closed from 3:30 to 6:30 p.m. for the parade and post-parade celebration.

For more information check out the University of Tennessee Homecoming page.

Featured image by Jenna Beaudin

Edited by Taylor Owens

UTPD officer seeks to make difference, offers safer environment for UT students

John Platt realized his passion for helping people after working as a missionary for his church for two years in Barcelona. He then decided become a police officer.

“My major in college was initially computer science, but then it changed to criminal justice,” Platt said. “I decided to pursue [becoming an officer] because of my love for helping others.”

After working for Clarksville Police Department in Clarksville, Tennessee, Platt passed the Entrance Exam and Board Review to join the Secret Service; but, during that time he fell in love and got married.

“My wife was attending [UT] in Child and Family Studies and so I decided to move just because we love the town of Knoxville so much more than where I’m from,” Platt said.

This is when he decided to transfer to the University of Tennessee Police Department (UTPD).

Platt said he is able to make a difference in the lives of college students because he can offer a safer environment for them.

IMG_7783
John Platt stands in his office during a tour of UTPD. Platt is a member of CRU.

“Today, college students are extremely anxious and they have so many different things that they are responsible for,” Platt said. “So, if I could reduce some of the stress as far as being safe, I feel like that educational aspect will be able to foster more.”

Platt is a member of the Community Relations Unit (CRU), which is part of UTPD. Platt teaches a variety of programs, including Rape Aggression Defense (RAD). Platt said he volunteered to teach this before he became a member of CRU.

“RAD I volunteered for before I came to the Community Relations Unit, just because my wife had told me she had taken that while she went to University of Utah for her undergrad, and she enjoyed it,” Platt said. “She explained it to me the best she could, and I felt that I could make more of a difference if I was able to teach that class as well.”

“You have this victimization triangle where you have the victim on one side, and you have the attacker on the other side,” Platt said. “But, in order for those to meet, there’s that base of opportunity. So if we could remove that base of opportunity, you know that’s 90 percent of self-defense is awareness.”

Ana Casey, a student at UTK studying Kinesiology, took RAD because she needed a physical education requirement and thought RAD would be beneficial.

“…I would say that it strengthened my ability to feel more confident in my ability to get out of an unsafe situation,” Casey said. “The reason for that is because of the simulation of a police officer being an attacker, and you are encouraged to defend yourself against the officer.”

IMG_7793
This room is used for teaching the Rape Aggression Defense (RAD) classes.

Platt also teaches a sexual assault awareness course and other programs like Community Response to an Active Shooter and Campus Carry.

“Child and Family Studies has really been a great sponsor for us because they constantly ask us to go over and teach their students,” Platt said. “…We talk about consent and when’s the right age to teach people about consent, because it’s such an important fact, and I think we’re missing it in our current culture.”

Platt believes that all of the programs, particularly RAD have been successful so far.

“We always have feedback where people can give us criticism through our website. They can fill out a feedback survey,” Platt said. “But also, we’ve had people contact us and tell us how someone was following them, and they knew at that time what to do. They felt comfortable calling the police and felt comfortable going a different route.”

Platt said one of the best aspects of teaching this course is receiving emails about how this program has helped others.

Platt said the goals of CRU is to foster the educational aspect of the environment while treating everyone fairly. He said Chief Troy Lane refers to their goals as ‘values’ and ‘pride.’ Pride stands for: professionalism, respect, integrity, dedication and excellence.

Sergeant Chuck Sennstrom, a member of CRU and Platt’s immediate supervisor, said Platt has always been passionate about his work as a police officer and a member of CRU from day one.

“During this time [with CRU], he has shown a great eagerness to provide programs and classes to the university community, and he has taken a special interest in programs that are geared towards the safety of our students,” Sennstrom said.  “Officer Platt has a keen ability to convey the safety issue to both students, staff and faculty with a genuine sense of concern for their well-being.”

For Platt, his favorite aspect of being a police officer has changed throughout the years.

“When I was younger, really I enjoyed the adrenaline. But, a lot of times the adrenaline is just 30 minutes out of a 12-hour shift, if that,” Platt said. “…Lately though,  I think the best time is being able to come home and know that I’ve done a great job and I’ve been able to impact someone’s life and being able to share those stories with my wife.”

However, the most challenging aspect for Platt is making quick decisions.

“…You have to constantly make quick decisions and those decisions you make are going to affect not only you, but it’s going to affect your family, and it’s going to affect the department and the community you’re serving” Platt said. “So, a lot of times we have this education available for the officers to take, but with that said, you know they still have to make the decision at the time.”

For more information on CRU or UTPD, visit their website.

Images by Kaitlin Flippo

Edited by Taylor Owens

Sex toy reviewer brings ‘Playtime’ to UT

The fifth evening of Sex Week at The University of Tennessee welcomed sex and mental health writer Joellen Notte for a colorful lecture entitled “Playtime: Introducing Toys into your Sex Life.”

Notte (pronounced “naughty”) opened her lecture by telling the audience “Notte is my actual last name. I did not make it up to write about sex on the internet.”

Notte’s talk was broken down into a health section about toxic toys and how to avoid them, “Toys 101,” a discussion of what’s out there in the world of sex toys, and “Savvy Sex: A guide to getting off without going broke.”

Most of Notte’s talk focused on hygiene and safety. While reviewing types of lubricant, from water-based to silicone-based to oil-based, she went over ingredients to avoid such as glycerin and petroleum oils, which can cause microtears in the skin and leave the user more vulnerable to infection. She reminded the audience that oil-based lubricant cannot be used with a latex condom, because it will break the latex down.

When it came to toxic toys, Notte explained that the sex toy industry is unregulated.

“Toys can contain anything, and they can claim to contain anything,” she said.

Users should stick to ABS plastic, glass, steel, sealed wood, aluminum or ceramics. Jelly, rubber, PVC, vinyl, and sil-a-gel toys should be avoided.

Notte also warned never to buy a toy with damaged packaging and to be wary of prices. If the price seems too good to be true, it is.

Notte covered safety when using impact tools. She explained that hitting someone on the sides or back can cause serious injury, and, while going over types of impact toys, she stressed “please learn what you’re doing before you just start whaling on somebody with a paddle.”

Armed with picture-filled slides to make her point, Notte introduced the audience to vibrators, dildos, harnesses, lubricant, and all the things she’s discovered in her tour of the nation’s naughtiest stores.

The talk ended with further discussion of prices. Vibrators alone, Notte explained, can range from $5 to $1,000. To help UT students take the information they learned at Playtime into their own lives, Notte came armed with a list of her favorite online retailers, complete with discount codes just for the Vols.

After the lecture and the giveaway, a giggly crowd headed into the Sex Week Drag Show, the week’s most popular event. A number of the talk’s attendees were surprised at how much they learned.

Lexi Kamolnick, a sophomore who called herself “not very knowledgeable” about the sex toy world, said she was most surprised by the variety.

“I had no idea,” she said. “The impact toys were so versatile. Who knew?”

Edited by McKenzie Manning

Featured image courtesy of Sex Week at The University of Tennessee Facebook Page

Al Roker arrives on UT campus

University of Tennessee students were invited to welcome the “Today Show’s” Al Roker to campus on Tuesday, March 29.

The festivities started around 10:30 a.m. when students met at the Visitors Center to ride to the airport and pick up Roker. Once he arrived on campus, he was escorted down Pedestrian Walkway.

Roker completed his day with a trip to Ayres Hall on The Hill.

The events take place a day before Roker is set to broadcast Rokerthon, a segment for the “Today Show,” live from Neyland Stadium. University of Tennessee students are attempting to break the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest human letter by creating a Power T.

Students who would like to participate must sign up beforehand and commit to staying in Neyland Stadium from 5:30 a.m. until 8:45 a.m. when the segment concludes.

Featured image by Savanna Jacoby

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

Panelists discuss mass incarceration in America, prison conditions in Tennessee

A diverse group of academics and activists traveled to UT to give a panel discussion on mass incarceration and reform in America on Friday, March 3.

The event was sponsored by the Scholars Strategy Network, the Howard J. Baker Center for Public Policy and UT’s departments of Political Science and Sociology.

The panelists represented the fields of religion, political science, legal studies and public policy. One of the panelists, Jeannie Alexander, painted a harrowing picture of prison conditions in the state of Tennessee.

Alexander, a former attorney and prison chaplain who directs No Exceptions Prison Collective, shared the fact that Tennessee is the 10th most incarcerated place in the world. According to Alexander, the private prison industry was “born” in Tennessee.

“We have four private prisons, so the majority of our prisons are state-run, but everything in the prison system is privatized,” Alexander said. “What we’re doing is charging the most to people who can’t afford it.”

The healthcare, food and commissary services in Tennessee state prisons are privately owned and operated.

Alexander spoke on the issue of violence against inmates by Department of Corrections officers and the denial of healthcare to inmates. No Exceptions assisted the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee and Disability Rights Tennessee in filing a class action lawsuit against the Tennessee Department of Corrections for denying treatment to inmates with Hepatitis C.

Alexander joined the other panelists in discussing ways she and her organization can fight back against what they view as human rights violations in the prison system.

Panelist Michael Owens, author and professor at Emory University, said that the injustice of mass incarceration can never be truly reformed unless the racial link is addressed.

“We know that the link between black and crime in the American psyche was a core cause of the prison boom,” Owens said. “We can make all sorts of reforms, but we are never addressing that racial link.”

Panelist Ash-Lee Henderson, of the Highlander Center and the Movement for Black Lives, spoke to the idea that abolishing a money bail system would “topple” the criminal justice system.

“Money bail is how they pay for everything,” Henderson said.

Henderson also explained that the activists involved in prison reform need scholars to back them up with research. Panelist Heather Schoenfeld, a professor at Northwestern University, explained that a lack of transparency in the prison system can make studying it difficult.

“Prison conditions right now are as bad as they have been in 25 years, and we have very limited ways of studying that in any kind of systematic way,” Schonfeld said.

For Alexander, the key to reforming the correctional system in Tennessee and beyond is organizing with people inside and outside of prisons. Alexander encouraged the mostly student audience to join in the fight against mass incarceration.

“We very much consider it a war,” she said. “We’re gonna do it with or without you. But we would much rather have you with us.”

Edited by Kaitlin Flippo

Featured Image by Ryan McGill