On February 7, posters celebrating Black History Month were defaced on the UTC campus by covering the BHM posters with ones extolling Hitler and Nazism. The person or group that did this is disrespecting our celebration of Black History Month and violating campus policy. The defaced posters were removed, as are all posters that do not follow campus policy. The University supports free speech but not by trampling on the rights of others. More importantly, the expression of such racist, hateful views have no place on our campus.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will continue to pursue excellence by embracing diversity and inclusion. The values of Hitler and the neo-Nazi movement are despicable, hateful, divisive and inconsistent with our ethics and core values.
Across the country, white supremacist groups are targeting colleges and universities, hoping to promote their beliefs and recruit members. They are coming to our campuses precisely because of our commitment to inclusion, diversity, social justice, and our mission to promote free speech.
While the First Amendment to the Constitution protects offensive speech, that does not mean we must remain silent when it occurs. In fact, we have a responsibility to condemn what we know is wrong. Hate is wrong. Racism is wrong. Advocating for the exclusion of all but one race is clearly wrong.
Our Student Government Association has released a statement in response to the poster defacing that reads in part:
“Blatant racial hatred across the United States has been highlighted as a result of recent events. Unfortunately, UTC is not immune. We have a responsibility to facilitate conversations about how to deter hatred and embrace the diversity that exists on our campus and in our community. Moving forward, we will continue to push our campus community, particularly the division of Student Development and our Student Body, to be leading forces in the change of our campus climate.”
I support and share the ideas and sentiments expressed by our SGA. Now is the time for us to speak up and speak out, to cherish our diversity, understand people who are different from us, and to stand up for our beliefs.
Challenges like this strengthen our character and resolve to do what is right, just and fair. UTC is a campus for all people. We strive to create an environment for lifelong learning in an atmosphere of understanding and civility.
Steven R. Angle