University of Tennessee students say live-stream camera at ‘The Rock’ creates accountability

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Changes aimed against hate at the University of Tennessee campus are continuing to be a big part of conversation. The Office of the Chancellor recently took action regarding “The Rock.”

More: UT installing camera near The Rock following recent anti-Semitic graffiti

Last week The Rock was painted with an anti-Semitic message. This week UT announced they’ll be installing a live-stream camera near the student message board, increase campus police patrols and revise campus rental space policies.

Campus police have reason to believe whoever wrote the anti-Semitic message isn’t a student or a member of the campus community, according to UT officials.

The Rock is driven by and walked by everyday, it’s been different colors and it’s seen every name.

“I like the community that it brings,” freshman Ashton Simpkins said.

“I think the rock is really cool because it’s just a way for students to express themselves,” freshman Lainey McConkey said.

A week later students are still talking about the hate message that was painted on The Rock.

“It kind of made me sad because I have a lot of pride in UT, and I don’t want to think about the fact that it’s one of us that did that,” Simpkins said.

“Realize that words do have an impact,” Lev Smolianski, vice president of Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity, said

The impact since then on campus has been one of change.

“It was very eye-opening,” Smolianski said. “(Administrators) really sat down with us, listened to our points. We didn’t feel dismissed, both (Jewish student foundation) Hillel and AEPi met with them and others in the Jewish community.

“We felt as though our voices are being heard and beyond that the steps that the university is taking shows they really do care.”

Students say they’re inspired and uplifted with the changes, specifically the live-stream camera.

“If you know that you can be seen writing on The Rock, it just gives people a sense of accountability to students and other people,” Smolianski said.

“I can see both sides to it but personally I don’t see it as an infringement to freedom of expression because I think if you’re saying things that are uplifting to others, it won’t matter either way,” freshman Jamie Stauffer said.

“I think that’s really good because there have been several instances like what happened last week so it’s something that’s needed to happen for awhile,” McConkey said.

RELATED: University of Tennessee condemns anti-semitic message painted on the Rock

The university said in a news release it is 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.”

MORE ONLINE | Read the full statement here

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