April 6, 2019

GEORGE KORDA IS ASKING TOUGH QUESTIONS: Is there a race problem at the University of Tennessee?

The University of Tennessee’s leadership owes citizens an answer to this question: Is there a race relations problem at the state’s flagship university?

The reactions of Wayne Davis, University of Tennessee-Knoxville chancellor, and Randy Boyd, interim UT system president, cannot possibly be motivated by the “blackface” incident in which two young white men were photographed with a black substance on their faces. The photo, with an unambiguously racially-charged caption, appeared for a period of time on a social media platform before being taken down.

Was the individual who wrote the caption racist, drunk, stupidly thinking they were being clever, or some combination thereof? There seems to be no intense interest in finding out why. The focus is on what’s to be done about it.

Twice in 2018 a swastika was painted on the Rock at UT. No one knows whether it was a true act of hate, an anti-Nazi trying to stir controversy, or a drunken prank. Nevertheless, these are anecdotal incidents in the context of the entire, massive university community made up of approximately 29,000 students and nearly 5,000 faculty and staff.

Nevertheless, after the latest incident, Chancellor Davis swung into action. As the News Sentinel reported on March 6, “immediate and ongoing” bias and sensitivity training will be put in place for faculty, staff, and administration, beginning with executive administration. “Student training” will begin in summer orientation and incorporated into First-Year Studies classes. . . .

The same Tennessean story’s second paragraph said, “The idea comes after an incident where two people, believed to be University of Tennessee-Knoxville students, appeared to wear blackface in a Snapchat image with a racist caption.”

Believed to be? Two individuals, weeks after the incident, were still “believed to be” students? And in response, all 29,000 UT-Knoxville students, as well as faculty and administrators, and perhaps nearly 200,000 pre-college students, are being funneled into training programs to ensure … what?

Well if there’s not a race problem, we’re wasting a lot of money on administrators and programs, so of course there is.

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