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 Students Protest University of Tennessee’s Response to Blackface Incident

The handling of a blackface incident on the University of Tennessee, Knoxville campus by school officials is drawing anger from students.

According to a USA Today report, during a Vols basketball game on Tuesday, more than 40 students dressed all in black as a mark of protest, remained seated during the singing of the national anthem, and chanted slogans against racism.

“Hey, hey, ho, ho, racism has got to go,” and “What do we want? Expulsion! When do we want it? Now!” were some of the chants belted by students.

The blackface controversy came into the limelight on Feb. 28 after a group of students posted a picture with a racist caption on Snapchat, featuring two students dressed in blackface.

“We for racial equality boys. Bout to get this free college now that I’m black let’s gooooo #blacklivesmatter,” the caption read.

The university was quick to issue a statement and condemn the incident, terming the picture “repulsive” and the caption “abhorrent.”

“The executive leadership of the University of Tennessee universally denounces hate and racism in all their forms,” Wayne T. Davis, interim chancellor, said in a statement.

“We are at a crossroads. Instead of accepting hate, we must denounce it. Instead of ignoring racism, we must name it and confront it. We must continue a dialogue through this moment to make Rocky Top a better place to be.”

However, after days of discussions, university administrators have said it is unlikely that the students will be expelled since they were “expressing their First Amendment rights.”

“We would be hard-pressed to expel a student for expressing their First Amendment rights,” Vince Carilli, vice chancellor for student life, said during a discussion on Monday.

Carilli’s comments follow President Donald Trump’s recent proposal of an executive order threatening to withhold federal aid for colleges and universities if they don’t protect the viewpoints of students from all political backgrounds.

Meanwhile, the university has said that it plans to review its student code of conduct, organize more trainings for campus community members, and create a group of cabinet members and students to define short and long term goals related to diversity and inclusion.

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