Students, police respond to hateful imagery painted on UT’s iconic Rock

Local News

We’re hearing responses to hateful imagery painted on UT’s iconic rock.

UT said over the weekend it was the second time in as many weeks that “the rock has been used to communicate hate.”

In fact, we’ve seen it happen several times over the past year or so, leading up to a white nationalist group’s speech on campus. UT even responded in February with a unity rally at the Rock.

Students on campus Monday though, passed a message of positivity on the rock, replacing one that was anything but. 

“When we see a swastika it’s more than just an attack on the Jewish faith or the Jewish people. It’s an attack on our values as Americans, it’s an attack on our university as a place where people of different faiths, skin colors, sexual orientations can come and join together in their goal of receiving a higher education,” said Mitch Moskowitz, the VP of Hillel, a Jewish student organization.

One UT student says she witnessed the act. 

“I noticed that they were all in full face masks, which is a little concerning on a university campus,” said Leah McCord.

The university said the posts do not represent Volunteer values. Some UT officials even met with students this morning from Hillel, the student Jewish organization.

“A lot of times students don’t always feel that the university is there with them, and their response. They don’t always feel that enough is being done. And so our meeting today served the purpose of making sure that that will not happen this time,” Moskowitz said. 

A conversation about next steps – it’s one UT’s police chief is also having. 

“We’ve asked particularly these next few weeks to have our patrols check that area much more frequently,” Chief Troy Lane said. “Right now we’re in conversation with our federal and local partners, Knoxville PD, FBI, others to discuss what, if any, further steps we can take, again we are tiptoeing around constitutional issues such as free speech.” 

And in the meantime, Moskowitz is making it clear that he refuses to be intimidated.

“We just have to remind ourselves that even though this is the second incident in as many weeks, we’re not alone. We have 30,000 other friends, students, people that we don’t know that would stand with us and do stand with us against such hate,” he said.

If you have any information about what happened at the Rock this weekend, UT police want to hear from you. 

You can give them a call at 865-974-3114.

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