Following the tragic shooting in a Pittsburgh synagogue that killed 11 people, an individual or group took it upon themselves to paint a swastika on the Rock. The Rock is supposed to be a symbol of free speech not hate speech, but for some reason, that is what students thought was acceptable.
Wayne T. Davis, UTK Interim Chancellor, said in an email that members of the campus and the local Jewish community felt targeted when this happened. If I were Jewish and someone had just killed 11 members of my religion and then I saw a swastika I would certainly feel target as well. Just as interim Chancellor Davis stated in the email no one should feel unsafe because of their religious beliefs.
I am thankful that students painted over this Nazi symbol as swiftly as they could, but I just want the people who did this to reconsider their thought process before they do it again. Swastikas are not funny, they are not a joke, and they have no place on landmarks of free speech because hate speech is not free speech. While to some people painting over a visual of solidarity with a swastika may seem like the proper thing do to, I am here to tell you it is not. No one has the right to scare people and make people feel unwelcome, especially on a college campus.
This incident affects the reputation of UT and the student body, I hope students will keep this in mind before using our only platform for free speech as a platform for hate speech.
I feel some peace knowing leaders of UT address the issue in the best way they could and interim Chancellor Davis's words served as a great reminder that our campus should be standing safe and united. I really hope UT students will continue to hold each other accountable and put in an enough to shed light onto others and diminish hate so that these kinds of actions do not happen again.
UTPD has increased surveillance and patrols around the campus to help discourage future incidences like this from occurring.