Neo-Nazi flyers show up on UTC campus, chancellor responds
Chattanooga police say they are familiar with the group and identify it as a white supremacist organization.
Someone placed flyers for Vanguard America on top of Black History Month posters at UTC on Wednesday. Chattanooga police are familiar with the group and identify it as a white supremacist organization.
UTC has a robust schedule of events this month to celebrate Black History Month. The flyers were placed over posters promoting those programs.
Students and administrators said free speech is welcome, but hate is not.
Flyers promoting Hitler and Nazism covered parts of Black History Month posters on UTC's campus. Students who saw the flyers had plenty to say.
"I didn't appreciate seeing that. I know there is such a thing as free speech, but i think that's unnecessary and hateful," Hadley Parker, a UTC junior said.
"I just find it rude and disrespectful. I don't like it. We don't need that type of stuff around campus," Jahsari Patterson, a UTC freshman said.
The UTC Student Government Association called it vandalism. The chancellor said it's a violation of campus policy and campus police told Channel 3 they're talking with the district attorney's office to find out if any charges apply.
"When we have things like this occur on our campus, it really kind of tugs at our values and who we are because we also are a campus that believes heavily in the freedom of speech," Dr. Trae Cotton, Vice Chancellor for Student Development said.
Dr. Cotton with the university said if the flyers were posted in any of the designated spaces on campus, they wouldn't be censored.
Administrators pre-approved the Black History Month posters on different parts of campus. The flyers were taken down because they were not approved ahead of time.
Other posters have surfaced in a designated area in response saying "no racists, no Nazis."
"Kind of saying you don't want me here. I'm from Georgia. This is 6 hours away from home. By saying that, it made me feel like I don't belong here," Patterson said.
"It's very unpatriotic and very unloving to a lot of people," Parker said.
The university's chancellor issued a statement with strong words:
On February 7, posters celebrating Black History Month were defaced on the UTC campus by covering the BHM posters with ones extolling Hitler and Nazism. The person or group that did this is disrespecting our celebration of Black History Month and violating campus policy. The defaced posters were removed, as are all posters that do not follow campus policy. The University supports free speech but not by trampling on the rights of others. More importantly, the expression of such racist, hateful views have no place on our campus.
The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga will continue to pursue excellence by embracing diversity and inclusion. The values of Hitler and the neo-Nazi movement are despicable, hateful, divisive and inconsistent with our ethics and core values.
Across the country, white supremacist groups are targeting colleges and universities, hoping to promote their beliefs and recruit members. They are coming to our campuses precisely because of our commitment to inclusion, diversity, social justice, and our mission to promote free speech.
While the First Amendment to the Constitution protects offensive speech, that does not mean we must remain silent when it occurs. In fact, we have a responsibility to condemn what we know is wrong. Hate is wrong. Racism is wrong. Advocating for the exclusion of all but one race is clearly wrong.
Our Student Government Association has released a statement in response to the poster defacing that reads in part:
“Blatant racial hatred across the United States has been highlighted as a result of recent events. Unfortunately, UTC is not immune. We have a responsibility to facilitate conversations about how to deter hatred and embrace the diversity that exists on our campus and in our community. Moving forward, we will continue to push our campus community, particularly the division of Student Development and our Student Body, to be leading forces in the change of our campus climate.”
I support and share the ideas and sentiments expressed by our SGA. Now is the time for us to speak up and speak out, to cherish our diversity, understand people who are different from us, and to stand up for our beliefs.
Challenges like this strengthen our character and resolve to do what is right, just and fair. UTC is a campus for all people. We strive to create an environment for lifelong learning in an atmosphere of understanding and civility.
Steven R. Angle
If someone doesn't have permission to be on private property, they can be charged with criminal trespassing. Since UTC is a public university, not much can be done.
Similar flyers were posted on Chattanooga State's campus and on Channel 3's property last month.
Both incidents were reported to police who keep track of groups an intelligence unit believes to promote messages of hate.