University of Tennessee Rock Painted With Swastikas, ‘Kill Jews,’ ‘Free Palestine’
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville, said an iconic campus structure was repainted with “symbols and messages of hate” on Saturday, for the second time in as many weeks.
While officials did not specify what was painted on the Rock, photographs shared on Facebook by user Sandra Starr Marquis and her daughter, who attends the school, reveal a potpourri of offensive markings — among them swastikas, the white supremacist Celtic Cross, and the lightning bolt logo of Nazi Germany’s Schutzstaffel, which oversaw concentration and extermination camps during the Holocaust.
Various slogans were interspersed between the symbols, including, “Kill Jews,” “Hail rape,” “White man’s land,” and “Free Palestine.”
The Rock — a slab of dolomite stone often decorated with different messages by students — has since been repainted with the word “Love,” according to a photo shared by Student Body President Ovi Kabir on Saturday.
“Signs of hate & bigotry have no place on our Rock or our campus,” Kabir wrote on social media. “Attempts to divide our community have & will always fall short because as Vols, we stand undivided against injustice.”
The school’s police department has increased surveillance in response to the incident, which came shortly after the Jewish campus group Hillel held a vigil at the Rock on Oct. 31 for the victims of the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting. Participants painted the Rock with a version of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ logo, which included a symbolic Star of David and the words, “Stronger Than Hate” — messages that were widely shared after the massacre.
Days later, a swastika was graffitied over the Star of David and the slogan was changed to, “Stronger Through Hate.”
The rock was quickly repainted by student government representatives, and UTK’s Interim Chancellor Wayne Davis met with students, faculty, staff and Jewish community members to discuss their concerns.
Shea Kidd-Houze, dean of students, invited community members to help the administration find a solution to these “hurtful messages” in a video posted to social media on Tuesday.
“In talking with students, they’ve expressed fear, anger, sadness — even some I’ve talked to don’t know what to do about this situation,” she said. “As administrators we want to have all the answers, and as community members you likely want us to fix it, and the truth is that we have to rely on one another to move to action.”