Chancellor Jimmy G. Cheek shares details and a special video featuring members of our campus community.
Civility is treating others as you would want to be treated. The golden rule is that simple and one that most people learn early in life.
But people don’t always live by the rule. Lawmakers often struggle to have a civil debate. Sports fans choose hostility over sportsmanship. People shout instead of talking and no one is heard. And prejudice sometimes prevails, no matter how far we seem to have come.
Unfortunately, it’s happened here at UT Knoxville. Last spring, we had a series of bias incidents reported. In one, someone threw a banana at visiting African American students, their parents, and guidance counselors.
We dealt with them head on and made it clear that we wouldn’t tolerate that kind of behavior. People appreciated how we dealt with the facts and made our message clear.
It was actually one of our students who helped me understand how we needed to respond. He told me how strongly he felt that we told our campus to hear the specific facts about the racial incident.
“It doesn’t make us look so good,” I told him. He said, “Chancellor, it is the truth.”
That was all it took to convince me that our faculty, staff, and students needed to know the offensive and embarrassing details so they could take a stand against that behavior and protect their campus as a welcoming place.
One of my top priorities is to enhance diversity on our campus, and one of the best ways to do that is to maintain and improve upon a campus climate. This past year, we’ve had several groups working on what we can do to make our campus even stronger.
This week marks the beginning of a campus-wide effort to ensure that the principles of civility and community will become an integral part of what it means to be a Tennessee Volunteer.
I invite you to join me for a Celebration of Civility and Community at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, April 15, at the University Center Plaza. The celebration will be part of the twenty-sixth annual International Festival.
I hope you will also watch the special video we produced for this initiative. These faculty, staff, and students convey a powerful message.
We truly are one campus and one community, and that includes alumni and friends like you.
I hope you will join me in celebrating our differences.
Jimmy G. Cheek
Chancellor, UT Knoxville