The Seal (Ped Walkway)

To the editor,

I began to comprehend the faraway concept of “college” in the beater truck of an older teenager from my neighborhood, in the throes of elementary school. Then, I was a plucky kid with bulletproof pink glasses and something to prove.

Unfortunately, being raised in an isolated factory town, that meant I was the designated target for bullying. It seemed like there would never be a place where I could feel like I belonged — until my babysitter began to talk about college. Together, we palmed through bloated history textbooks, while she spoke about how wonderful it is there. From that moment on, I knew what I wanted — and I knew that, to get it, I would have to be perfect.

Arabella Sarver

Arabella Sarver is a freshman studying environmental studies from Vonore, Tennessee.

So, I was. 12 years of agonizing perfection culminated in my graduation as the valedictorian of my high school, complete with a resume boasting numerous accolades and a list of part-time jobs stretching back since I was 14. My infatuation with the University of Tennessee began the first time that I stepped on campus and it felt like all the bones in my body reverberated with the knowledge that this was the only way forward. When I opened the email stating that my early decision results had been posted, I wept for joy, for freedom, for the future.

Then, the bills began to arrive. Every time that I managed to scrape together a way to meet the inflated demands of this college, new charges would claw into my savings. By the time that the college notified me that there was no housing available for me, I was working three jobs to outwit the expenses of the university.

Every announcement of a new university-sanctioned hotel or useless business building salted fresh wounds, as I learned that off-campus housing was not a viable option for me. The sparks of belonging that I felt on Torch Night were extinguished by the same speakers who ignited them within me.

It has been two weeks since I committed to leaving this place for better circumstances. I have felt peace for the first time since move-in day. The recent actions of university administration have made it evident that students are not viewed for their humanity, nor for their accomplishments, but for the weight of their financial contributions.

We as a community must hold the university accountable for the perpetual crises they have engineered, lest my story becomes all of ours.

Yours in Solidarity,

Arabella Sarver

Arabella Sarver is a freshman in environmental studies. She can be reached at

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(5) comments

Keith Bingham

College, considered as an institution, rather than education, ought to consider its faculty, students, quality of education, and other contributions to society as the welfare of the future of the institution, not room.

Luckily, there's no lack of competition for education in life, though quality can be varied.

Keith Bingham

Growing to meet the needs of more students shouldn't make a college actually unable to meet the needs of more students. That's counter-productive.


I left, too on February 22, 2023. My rent has gone astronomical since UT decided to let the floodgates open without the resources. To tell the truth I am on disability and was going to school basically free; and still it was not worth it. I already have a BS and an MBA from years past but I wanted to learn, be happy and meet people. What I got was people overly concerned with status, handholding, and all with hyper-sensitive personalities (group-thinked by department). Learning is tertiary at UT; it's money that is first and foremost and then status. I never saw so many closed-minded and small-minded people and at a university.... I wouldn't recommend UT as a place to invest time in let alone learn anything. In leaving I came out hating a University that I grew up with as a child going to UT games with my father (the Captain of the '62 Volunteers). So, all my UT stuff is off my car and my High Honors diploma at the Dean of Students office. And he can keep it. I walk away, hating UT (so much that I called the Alumni department to say never call me for money). I too walk away knowing I made the right decision and at more peace with my life and situation. We all learn, if we think and act on it.

Jacob Dean

As an alumnus, the author’s sentiments are a testament to the disappointing state of higher education and to the failure of the University to address this outcome. During my attendance in the early 2010’s, our experience was marred by never ceasing construction. The now beautiful campus was largely an unfinished pit of red clay for much of my collegiate tenure. The only silver lining was that we knew the campus should be better off for it. Yes, it’s now quite beautiful, but reading reports such as the author’s betrays the sad reality of the University’s grand plan - it was never about the students. How could such a basic need as housing be so drastically overlooked. It’s shameful how our alma mater’s leadership has betrayed our students, a wound compounded by the knowledge that we’re hemorrhaging thoughtful, talented scholars. Our students deserve much better.


I can relate to the author because I left UT just recently because I was a graduate student and my assistantship stipend of $755 or so a month wasn't nearly enough to live in, much less thrive on and live a full life while studying. To make matters even worse, they only allow you to work an extra 10 hours on campus to make extra money. So, as you can imagine, it's really hard to deal with those difficult circumstances and go to class and learn and then find time to work extra jobs off campus to make it financially. Lastly, I never felt any sense of community at UT. I stared there as an undergrad in 2017 and was there until I dropped out a few weeks ago. I always thought UT would be a place where I'd make a lot of friends and make amazing memories, but I guess not. It seems like you are only welcome if you are:

A - Rich and hoity toity

B - a flaming liberal who hates everything

If you are just a normal person from a working class background you won't find a home at UT.

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