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The Division of Student Life’s Commitment

A message from Vice Chancellor Frank Cuevas to the campus community on acts of racism and hate. We are here for you to lean on, vent to, and tell us what you need.

Dear Vols,

The senseless and horrific death of George Floyd has left me heartbroken and outraged. As a member of the Latino community and a descendent of immigrants, I have lived and witnessed some of the systemic issues faced by people of color. I stand in solidarity with our African American community to condemn acts of racism and brutality, and I know my condemnation is not enough. There may be physical distance between us, but I can feel the pain, anger, and fear when I talk with students and colleagues. It is another example of systemic racism in our society, and members of our Volunteer community are hurting and exhausted.

I want you to know that I have seen and heard the outcry and I am here for you.

The student life leadership team and I will devote our office hours this week to listening to you and what you need to feel safe, supported, and respected on our campus. We are here for you to lean on, vent to, and tell us what you need. Office hours are scheduled for Wednesday, June 3, from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The Division of Student Life is committed to providing support and education not just for students but also for those working to support you. We will continue to facilitate the hard conversations and strategic initiatives that will help lead us to greater understanding.

Last fall the university launched the mattering and belonging initiative with Dear World to help tell your stories, and we look to expand those efforts this year. In January, Student Life partnered with the Division of Diversity and Engagement and the chancellor’s cabinet to establish UT as an affiliate campus of the National Coalition Building Institute, giving us additional tools to support you more effectively. Next week, on June 11, Multicultural Student Life will kick off a series to support men of color on our campus. We are planning our fall lineup of Rocky Topics, which will center on the politics before, during, and after the presidential election, and I invite each of you to take part in that conversation.

It is hard to be successful as a student and a scholar if you do not feel that you matter, you belong, and you are safe. I want every student to know that they belong on Rocky Top and their unique story matters here.

There is so much more work to do. Vol is a verb. We will continue to take action to create a culture of care and inclusivity for all. We will do the hard work to show the world what equity and inclusivity look like. We will lead the way.

Frank Cuevas
Vice Chancellor for Student Life