I want to keep you updated on our actions related to the expression of hate messages—the most recent message on the Rock last week and previous messages on the Rock and in other places on our campus. We are committed to being a campus where everyone matters and everyone belongs, a campus where love will never be replaced by words or actions of hate. Hate aimed at one Vol is aimed at all Vols, and we are committed to responding decisively and peacefully as a Volunteer community. Here is a list of actions that have been taken:
- UTPD has increased patrols around the Rock and has reason to believe that the people responsible for writing hate speech on the Rock last week are not students or members of our campus community.
- We are installing a live-streaming camera and will make the feed available for anyone to see as a symbol that our community is taking collective responsibility for the Rock. We are meeting on Thursday with a group of students who want to create a group, Students for the Rock, to expand our community of Volunteers and our collective accountability around communicating our values and replacing messages of hate with those of mattering and belonging.
- The campus space rental policy has been revised to restrict rental to unaffiliated third parties. These changes will eliminate rentals to unaffiliated groups in Alumni Memorial, the Culinary Institute and Creamery (the former site of the Visitors Center), the Student Union, and academic buildings.
- Our Mattering and Belonging initiative will include programs and special lectures on the cost of hate and the power of love. Those plans are under way.
I appreciate a number of our Jewish students and faculty making the time to meet with me and other members of the cabinet on short notice last week, and I appreciate student government leaders also engaging with us quickly. In addition to the above items, a number of ideas came out of those meetings aimed at further engaging our community.
Meanwhile, several opportunities are upcoming:
- Today at 5:30 p.m., Volunteers are invited to the Student Union pedestrian bridge to be United at the Table and share a meal together.
- Thursday, the Vol Is a Verb campaign kickoff continues with the Dear World storytelling show and photo reveal.
- PEN America will be on campus October 2 and 3 to lead sessions related to protecting free speech while combating hate speech. More information will follow soon.
The goal is for all Vols to learn and find community on Rocky Top. I invite you to participate in these and other opportunities that interest you.
We will continue to update you as these actions and others progress.