Shea Kidd Houze, UT's Dean of Students, will kick off the Mattering and Belonging Campaign Thursday. Here’s what parents should know about the campaign, its impact on the university and how you can help:
Vol means all — but everyone hasn’t always thought that
Over the past few years, the university has had several instances of hate speech, racism and homophobia on its campus. Most notably, after a vigil was held at the Rock in honor of the victims of the October 2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting, the Rock was covered with Nazi symbols and phrases, covering a painting remembering the shooting victims.
The university responded, but instances have continued, most recently including multiple students dressing in black face and making racist jokes on social media.
These instances heavily contributed in the creation of the Mattering and Belonging Campaign.
Dean Shea wants to make sure everyone feels welcome on Rocky Top
According to Kidd Houze, this campaign is about making sure every student feels welcome at the university and combating those instances of hate on campus.
“The big thing is to cultivate a campus climate where every student’s story is valued and has significance. … When we think about a sense of belonging, we really think about the importance of an individual’s story and how that fits into the volunteer experience,” Kidd Houze said. “When we say mattering, that means, ‘I am in a space that people know has a voice, and my voice matters.’”
The campaign kicks off this weekend
The Mattering and Belonging Campaign will be hosting its opening event Dear World on Thursday, September 12.
Dear World is a national project centered around encouraging people to tell their stories and send a message through body-writing and creative photoshoots. The organization began its operation in 2009 in New Orleans. Today, Dear World has photographed over 50,000 people all over the globe.
The university will host the event in the Student Union art gallery. There, attendees will have the opportunity to write messages on themselves and participate in a photoshoot centered around portraying those messages in an impactful way.
The photoshoot will take place between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. The university is inviting faculty, staff and students to come share their stories.
Dear World is only the beginning
The Mattering and Belonging Campaign is beginning with the Dear World event but it will not stop there. “Vol is a verb” t-shirts popped up all around campus, which is part of the Mattering and Belonging Campaign. Additional events will continue to pop up around campus as the year progresses.
“Events will continue to emerge across campus as the campaign develops,” Kidd Houze told the Daily Beacon.
For more information on the Mattering and Belonging Campaign, its upcoming events and how you can help and participate, visit https://belong.utk.edu/.