KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - University of Tennessee President Joe DiPietro issued a statement Thursday about recent activity on the Knoxville and Chattanooga campuses.
A white supremacist group has been painting slogans on the rock at UT. The founder of the Traditionalist Worker Party is also planning to speak on the Knoxville campus.
"It's no secret that we are living in a polarized, turbulent time in American life, and college campuses are not immune. In the last 12 months, alone, news accounts have documented multiple instances of extremist groups seeking to demonstrate or speak at universities," stated DiPietro.
Learn More: FAQ page from UT about the TWP event
Chancellor Beverly Davenport said the group was not invited by the university and they don't want them to come.
An event will be held Friday at 3:30 p.m. called "United at the Rock Against Racism," sponsored by the Campus Ministers Council, Faculty Senate, and the Student Government Association.
PRESIDENT DIPIETRO'S FULL STATEMENT:
"It’s no secret that we are living in a polarized, turbulent time in American life, and college campuses are not immune. In the last 12 months, alone, news accounts have documented multiple instances of extremist groups seeking to demonstrate or speak at universities.
The ugly reality is, extremist groups are actively organizing, targeting colleges and universities in an attempt to be heard and to grow their ranks. Hate groups also target some universities on the basis of their principles of inclusion and commitment to free speech.
And now, two of our own campuses—the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga—are being targeted.
At UT Knoxville, the white supremacist group Traditionalist Workers Party was not invited to appear on campus, but followed UT policy on use of campus facilities by non-University speakers in seeking to conduct an event.
At UT Chattanooga, vandals have attempted to cover posters for Black History Month events on campus with posters referencing Adolf Hitler. As these have been discovered, the posters have been removed because the group does not have a permit to be active on campus.
Now, let me be clear: Every campus and enterprise of the statewide University of Tennessee system respects and upholds the constitutionally protected First Amendment right to free speech which, history has shown, also can include ignorant, repulsive speech.
The statewide UT system also respects and upholds principles that run counter to hateful speech – inclusion, tolerance and civility – that I emphasize here for every person who reads these words.
History is littered with the tragedy of unchecked hate, racism and violence. And at the University of Tennessee, we should bluntly call out what is wrong: Hate, racism and violence are wrong. There is no place for them on any of our campuses or university facilities.
The University of Tennessee is a vast community of 50,000 students, 11,000 employees, and more than 375,000 alumni of every UT campus. As varied and divergent as the viewpoints among our community may be, I am certain we can agree that hate should be rejected and civility embraced across the entire university system.”