It’s Time UT is a social media campaign that is pushing for administration to finally complete changes to the student code of conduct that have been under revision for almost two years now. These changes ensure that discrimination and hate speech are not tolerated as a student at the University of Tennessee.
It’s time for these changes to happen.
If you would like to get involved or have any questions, please email our Student Body President, Karmen Jones, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Student Code of Conduct Statement
Student Government Association
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville
October 26th, 2020
The Student Government Association at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville is calling on the administration to enact more definitive, concrete and consistent action towards necessary changes to our Student Code of Conduct. The Student Code of Conduct has been under revision since 2018, with no advancement toward a resolution that supports the safety of our Volunteer community. Our Code was referred into revision after a ballot referendum and campus movement to push our university to discontinue any tolerance of hate speech, harrassment and discrimination.
These changes that were proposed were voted on by the student body and approved in an overwhelming majority. The student approved changes are centered around alterations which would lay clear our promise as a university to be “welcoming to all and hostile to none”. It is clear from nationally accredited studies that we are far from reaching this aspirational goal. The UTK administration has informed us that these changes will not be entertained by the UTK administration nor the Board of Trustees. Students have borne witness to atrocities from hate groups over the last few years with no legislative change from the administration. This is unacceptable, and we have a duty to inform the student body of this neglect and further lobby for its interests.
The appropriate changes called for by students and for students MUST be completed by UT administration and the Tennessee legislature by the beginning of Spring Semester, January 20th, 2021. Students at the University of Tennessee deserve to not only feel safe, but be safe and comfortable on our campus. It’s time to put words into action. #ItsTimeUT
President Karmen Jones will give a direct address to the Student Body in further detail soon, and we will be publishing a series of student voices on the matter.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville Student Government Association Executive Cabinet
Statement About Student Code of Conduct Changes From Our Student Body President
Hello Volunteer family, on Monday, you may have seen a video and statement from our SGA Executive Cabinet and other members of our student body about our student code of conduct revisions. This campaign for change, called “ItsTimeUT”, is a student-led initiative that was founded on the promise that our SGA administration would bring CHANGE.
And it is my hope that I can bring clarity to what this moment is for all of us as UT students.
In the tenure of the senior members of the SGA Executive Cabinet, we have seen in less than four years: incidents of white supremacy rallies, defacement of the rock with slurs and hate symbols including the Nazi swastika, blackface, the mistreatment of Black students at local restaurants and off-campus student apartments, our Pride Center defaced and vandalized numerous times, and have seen our own university buildings sold out to a neo-Nazi hate group.
Each time one of these incidents happen, a statement is released from the upper administration promising change- yet action seldom comes. The surfacing of images of students in black face sparked mobilization of our students. Students organized, students marched, and students demanded that the university reform its practices and procedures. In April of that year, the Student Code of Conduct Revisory Board was formed. Faculty, staff, and most importantly students were asked to work together to reform the parts of our code that perpetuate hate and discrimination by our summer deadline.
After months of drafting, two major parts of revisions on our preamble and harassment clause were completed. The preamble, which sets the tone of our entire Code of Conduct, was revised to include the phrase written by Maria Urias, a former SGA senator, “We are welcoming to all and hostile to none.” After this adjustment to the preamble was created, the Revisory Board made clear that discrimination must be identified as unwelcoming and as a form of harassment.
Once those changes were finalized, administration went silent. We were frequently deferred- Updates were seldom given. And here we are, two years later, with no resolution.
When this SGA administration was elected, we ran on a platform of inclusion and change. Student Code reform was not some empty campaign promise that we fed you all in order to get into office. We meant it then and we mean it now.
This year, the SGA Executive team was reassured on multiple occasions that the university leadership remained in full support of these changes, and given our institution’s public commitment to becoming an anti-racist instituation, this year was the year to finally make this university’s course change. But when a series of revisions on the student code changes were presented during the Board of Trustees’ October Meeting, students asked…where are the changes we proposed?
When our executive cabinet inquired about these concerns, we were told that it could be postponed until the spring. Two weeks ago, we were told that these changes would not and could not be entertained.
Our cabinet left that conversation outraged and hurt. Honestly, I felt that two years of advocacy had been wasted. I reflected on the way seeing Blackface affected my own mind and my own body. Out of transparency and as a personal testimony, I could not bring myself to eat in the wake of this, I lost dozens of pounds, my blood pressure plummeted, and my heartbeat became increasingly irregular- leading to other complications.
That is what racialized trauma does. My story is not unique or an anomaly on this campus. So, when we see administration handling students of color and all marginalized communities on our own campus with inconsistency, lack of transparency, and care- we have to continue to remind them that their job, above all other agendas and outside influence, is to serve students first.
So, to our UT Administration, it’s time. It has been time.
It’s time for us to reform the code to a realistic resolution, bring our students, faculty, and staff back into the planning process if needed, and it is time for you to keep your word. We are expecting the appropriate changes to be completed by UT administration and the Tennessee legislature by the beginning of the Spring Semester, January 20th, 2021.
To my fellow students, I want to make it crystal clear- that my administration and I did not get elected by administrators; you elected us. I am not some unpaid junior administrator, I am the Student Body President, with Student in bold and underlined. I ask that we work together as one Volunteer community and bring awareness to this issue using the hashtag #itstimeut on social media and contact our university leadership to let them know how you feel about this issue. I hope that we’ve made our position crystal clear on this issue.
SGA will be releasing more information and stories by students affected by discrimination faced on our campus in the weeks to come. I cannot emphasize this enough, this SGA administration serves at the pleasure of the student body- so please contact us with any questions you may have on this topic or if you’d like to get involved with this movement, let us know. And to the administrators? I’m excited to see you at the table.
Thank you and God bless,
Karmen Jones, Student Body President