Students, faculty and administration gathered at the corner of Pat Head Summitt Street and Volunteer Boulevard in order to take part in a repainting of the Rock.
During the repainting on Wednesday, the Rock was freshly coated in white, a color that proved seasonally appropriate in the brisk morning. Chancellor Wayne Davis and Provost David Manderscheid were also present at the event.
The new canvas was not completely blank, however; in large, spray-painted orange, the Rock sported the phrase “All Vols Belong!!! All Vols Unite.”
This foundation was laid prior to the official event; at least an hour before the painting, representatives from the Chancellor’s Commissions for Blacks, LGBT People and Women, respectively, were painting the bright orange declaration, working through the steadily falling snowflakes.
Dr. Rachel Chen, chair of the Chancellor’s Commission for Women, opened the event, introducing her associates, including Sharon Couch, chair of the Commission for Blacks.
As the event progressed, attendees were encouraged to step up, take a brush, dip into any number of assorted paint colors and adorn the snow-white Rock with colorful butterflies, hearts and Power T’s. Before long, all three covered the Rock.
This painting of the Rock is the latest in responses to the swastikas and other historical hateful messages and symbols placed on the Rock in early November.
Sarah Frankel, a PhD student in retail and hospitality and one of the first to arrive at the event, explained her initial response to news of hate speech on the Rock.
“Fear ... was my immediate response,” Frankel said. “Growing up Jewish (in Knoxville), my parents always told us not tell people that (we) were Jewish ... you’re setting yourself up for hate crimes and to be targeted.”
Frankel said that “there just seems to be a lot more hate than there used to be.” The resurgence of it has galvanized her.
“I feel the need to stand with the community,” Frankel said.
To complete the new painting on the Rock, Couch spray-painted a heart in the place of the “o” in the “Vols”. As she removed the stencil tape, she led the attendees in a resounding “Go Vols!”
“What we’ve had is outside reports of what’s happening at UT: someone painted the Rock,” Couch said. “What we’re trying to communicate to the community is that we are actively engaged in what’s inside of us: who we are. And we’re pricking (the campus community’s) heart to share that who we are (are) Vols ...
“We all belong here.”
With respect to future policy decisions, Couch affirmed the administration’s devotion to making campus a safer, more inclusive place and emphasized the importance of students’ involvement in the process, especially in cases like the Rock.
“We can’t take things off the Rock,” Couch said. “But students can.”