The Rock at the University of Tennessee Knoxville is a staple to the campus community. It serves its population as a canvas for whatever the writer, artist or messenger chooses.
It was unearthed on campus in 1966 and remains a landmark for free expression at the corner of Volunteer Blvd. and Pat Head Summitt St.
Painting on the Rock did not become popularized until the 1980s.
During times where hate or potentially harmful messages are written on the Rock, Vols have been quick to replace it.
With the election having happened earlier this week, the Rock was met with partisan messages promoting the major party candidates of President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden. symbols of hate and names associated with the Nazi party.
On Monday evening, students of UTK’s Student Government Association chapter took to the Rock to cover these messages by creating non-partisan and neutral words of love and civic duty.
The evolution of these messages over the past few days have included that of “Hitler” and paintings of swastikas along with “Joe Biden is sexy,” “BLM” and “Go Trump.”
Simeon Glover is a senior at UTK studying psychology and political science. Glover serves as the current director of Students for the Rock, and spoke about what the Rock stand for and what it is to the campus community.
Glover’s role secures responsibility for fighting hate so that the student body knows that such messages are not to be stood for. Glover is the first person notified when the Rock has been defaced.
“The Rock is important because it allows for our students to express themselves. They can paint whatever they want on the Rock and it is seen as a message board for campus. Pre-COVID, it was always a sight to behold on a fall Saturday to see whatever mural was put on the Rock,” Glover said.
“I found out about a lot of events student organizations might have been doing through the Rock. The Rock is our school's bulletin board and it should be everyone's job to not harm our bulletin board.”
With respect to the repainting over partisan messages that took place on Monday night and early Tuesday morning, Glover was not directly involved.
“I did not have any role behind the repainting, but the "All-SGA" GroupMe started blowing up around 11:30 at night with all the members mobilizing to cover up the Rock with a bipartisan message,” Glover said.
“When Students for the Rock was an independent student organization, that kind of thing happened a lot. If the Rock was defaced, someone viewing the live stream will alert the group and they will decide if they go and repaint that evening or not.”
Rainey Dinsmore, junior studying psychology with a sociology minor, serves as the current director of the Diversity Affairs Committee for SGA and helped to repaint the rock Tuesday morning.
They spoke about anger and the “rancid vibes” felt at the Rock during these events. Dinsmore’s platform as a UTK student and director for SGA not only allowed for an opportunity to create neutrality within the atmosphere at already elevated times, but it also created an opportunity for them to lead as an example for others.
“I use my position to educate and program. This semester that looks different, but we do use our space to educate when possible and to support other offices, like the Pride Center and MSL. As a student on this campus and director of SGA, I am allowed to paint the Rock and ensure that inclusive messages are spread,” Dinsmore said.
“Some students are currently terrified. This is not the time to do anything other than encourage others to use their voice to vote. Painting the Rock for either candidate does not do anything besides spread anger and fear, but encouraging other Vols to use their voice can make a difference.”
The repainting that some SGA members did included messages of “Vols Vote,” including the associated UTK email distribution list and “Spread Love.” These messages were decided on by the group who did the repainting as any painting at the Rock may tend to be in a rather spontaneous nature.
These messages have since been painted over.
The Rock may be monitored online via a 24/7 livestream. However, it is not recorded by UT nor is it used for security purposes. Emergencies and non-emergencies may be reported through the UTPD phone application.