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Next Steps Moving Forward

I know you are tired of getting these emails, and we are all tired of racist events happening on our campus that make them necessary.

I want to update you on the actions we are taking—not just in response to specific incidents but in an effort to address the underlying issues that allow them to happen. It is important to say that my leadership team and I see these actions as a starting point. We will continue to listen, evaluate, gather feedback, and communicate with you in order to move forward together.

First, we will require both immediate and ongoing cultural competency, inclusion, and bias training for all faculty, staff, and administrators, beginning with the executive administration. We are calling on our faculty experts to develop a curriculum for the chancellor’s cabinet that can be implemented immediately.

Second, we will expand student cultural competency training—beginning with orientation this summer and through next fall’s Welcome Week—and we will work with campus experts to incorporate these important components into First-Year Studies classes.

Additionally, the Faculty Senate passed General Education requirements Monday that include global citizenship courses. These courses will provide more opportunities for students to engage in dialogue about current issues involving campus climate, race, and inclusion. We are also working with faculty members to create instructor workshops and student programming around intergroup dialogue. This initiative is intended to assist with critical conversations aimed at creating better understanding and acceptance of differences.

Third, I am forming a committee of students, faculty, and staff to review our Student Code of Conduct in the context of peer university policies and applicable laws to recommend changes or clarifications related to both content and implementation. I will ask the committee to provide a timeline for its work that we will publicize at a later date.

Fourth, many of you have asked about the status of the students involved in the blackface incident last week. While federal law prohibits us from commenting on specific students beyond their enrollment status, we can tell you that Ethan Feick is no longer a student at the University of Tennessee.

We are creating a website to house these and other action items and status updates, as well as to curate resources, information, events, and programming related to supporting our students and our campus community. The site will be launched by the end of this week at belong.utk.edu.

These actions are merely a beginning. We have received a number of excellent ideas and appreciate everyone who is engaged in this difficult and ongoing dialogue. I am personally committed to listening to you, and I will ensure the leadership of the university takes the steps necessary to heal our community and rebuild your trust.