University of Tennessee Chancellor Davis condemns swastika painted on the Rock
Last week, a swastika was painted on the Rock at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, campus soon after being painted with a "message of solidarity," according to a statement from Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis.
More students then painted over the swastika.
The incident happened days after the shooting at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh where 11 people were killed and seven were injured. UT Knoxville Hillel, a group for Jewish students, held a vigil on Wednesday, Oct. 31, at the Rock following the shooting.
Tara Bain, director of UT Knoxville Hillel, said at the vigil, the Pittsburgh Steelers logo along with the phrase "Stronger Than Hate" had been painted on the Rock. On Friday night, two students noticed two individuals painting the Rock. When the two students approached the Rock, the individuals who were painting left.
The students noticed that the Rock had been changed to say "Stronger Through Hate," and a swastika had been painted over the Star of David, Bain said.
"It was very disheartening," Bain said.
However, Bain said within 45 minutes, "student government representatives painted over the Rock with 'Vols Means All.'"
"I am disappointed and deeply concerned, as are many members of our university community, that this symbol of hate appeared on one of our iconic campus landmarks," Davis said in a statement.
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Davis said he met with students, faculty, staff and members of the local Jewish community to discuss the incident. Davis said those he met with felt "targeted and intimidated by this incident."
"I want to make it clear that the university does not condone these actions or other acts of intimidation or intolerance," Davis said. "No one should feel unsafe because of their religious beliefs."
Bain said Jewish students on campus "immediately felt unsafe...we're just very disheartened that this would happen." Since the incident last week, there has been an "outreach of strength and support," both from university administrators and other religious groups on campus, she said.
Davis noted that the Rock is "a long-standing platform of free expression," and the paintings from last week do not "represent our values and has no place on our campus."
Davis pointed to the "Vols Means All" message that was painted over the message, and said he was encouraged by the students who chose to do so.
"As disappointed as I am that this happened, I am also heartened by the students who took it upon themselves to immediately paint over the symbol of hate out of care and concern for their fellow Volunteers," he said.
"By standing together and taking care of and respecting one another, we will ensure our campus is a community in which everyone feels welcome and safe."