By now, most of you likely know that a white supremacist group has made plans to hold an event on our campus. Despite what their social media says, this group was not invited here by anyone at the University of Tennessee, and they are not welcome.
To those of you who have reached out to me through email, social media, or other means, please know I have heard you and share your concerns. Also, please know the safety and well-being of everyone on this campus is my primary concern.
The message on our Rock yesterday imploring white supremacists to “stay out” captures our collective sentiment. We do not want them here. But they appear intent on coming. We don’t, however, have to give them an audience or the attention they seek.
We are working diligently through the details surrounding the proposed event and talking daily with law enforcement, general counsel, relevant experts, peers at our sister institutions, and other advisers to plan and prepare.
As I have said before, hate is wrong. Racism is wrong. Advocating for the exclusion of all but one race is clearly wrong. Also, this group could not be more wrong.
But I am asking you now to change the conversation away from what they stand for and toward what we stand for. We must reanimate our values, our beliefs, and our commitment to the common good. I repeatedly talk about kindness and respect and our responsibility to others because these are the virtues of a civil society and the foundations of democracy.
Faculty and students are organizing discussion sessions and special seminars. We have invited our own campus experts and speakers from around the country to join us in discussing racism, hate groups, and our collective strengths against such despicable propaganda.
I am urging you to educate yourselves so you can understand better where hatred grows, why it develops, and how we must stand against it. I urge you to reach out to your classmates and colleagues to have these discussions. This is a time for our campus to unite and support each other.
Over the next several days and weeks, student and faculty groups will be holding educational and unifying events. Join us at 3:30 p.m. Friday for the United at the Rock Against Racism gathering, sponsored by the Campus Ministers Council, Faculty Senate, and the Student Government Association.
As more events are confirmed, we will continue to update the campus community.
In peace and unity,
Beverly J. Davenport