“The Rock” has been a form of communication and celebration for students at the University of Tennessee for decades now. The large boulder has been a way for students to creatively express themselves and display UT’s unique qualities by spray painting words, images, names and more onto its surface.
In the past, murals of Coach Pat Summitt, Smokey the dog and even Sinan the squirrel have been painted on the structure.
Recently, the Rock has been the site of several hate crimes; the location was painted with anti-Semitic messages three times in under a year. The most recent incident occurred late in the evening on 9/11.
Students at the university reacted quickly to the hate and expressed the desire to see a change, hoping to show that these crimes are unacceptable at this university. In response to the hate, Chancellor Donde Plowman suggested a group of students to work on protecting the Rock, and this fall the new organization Students for the Rock was formed.
The organization aims to help promote students’ voices around campus. Students involved in Students for the Rock are currently in charge of fostering the foundational structure of the brand-new organization.
The organization currently contains a wide variety of members, including visual artists, students interested in improving campus culture and those simply wanting to have their voices heard.
Senior students Caitlin Lloyd and Karmen Jones are two of the founding members of Students for the Rock. In a statement to the Daily Beacon, the two shared their hopes for the new organization.
“It is through these initiatives that we are hoping to truly embody Vol is a Verb and to reach out to campus in a positive manner to counter hate and prejudice,” Lloyd and Jones said.
The two explained that the Dean of Students Office is spreading positive messages about bettering campus culture with the goal of helping Vols feel valued.
“We believe that these displays of inclusive messages will reach further than negativity ever can,” Lloyd and Jones said.
Students for the Rock is all about improving the community around campus and making the Volunteer community stronger and healthier. It is a positive message that the members of the organization are trying to convey as they work to teach students that positivity will always trump negativity.
Students for the Rock aims to prove that the hate crimes committed at the Rock do not accurately represent the culture of our campus, and the organization is fighting back against the hate and improving our campus culture. The main purpose of this organization is to send positive messages out to the campus and community.
Additionally, the organization aims to promote the positive art that is shared on the Rock.
“Our collective decision was to create a space that would welcome all Volunteers to participate in changing the symbolism and narrative of the Rock. We all understand that the Rock has been a platform for those who do not value the Volunteer spirit to target students of diverse communities, and our hope is to give the positive art a larger and more structured platform,” Lloyd and Jones said.
Lloyd and Jones explained that the organization has hopes to grow and gain a larger following, understanding and community.
“There are passionate students on our campus who are invested in making sure this continues, and this organization is an effort to create a space where it can grow,” they said.
Students for the Rock is helping to further the engagement between students and campus culture, working to improve UT’s campus every day.