UTHSC student Kelcey Cooper stood in the crowded lobby of the General Education Building today as the campus community came together to take a public stand against hate. A physician assistant student, Cooper said she is saddened by the hatred and violence in the world today, but she is proud that the university would stage a public observance to stand against it.
Those feelings were echoed during a two-hour anti-hate observance that drew students, faculty, and staff, and included speeches from campus leadership, a moment of silence for victims, and the opportunity to sign one of several banners with anti-hate messages that will be hung in buildings on campus.
“It’s actually unfortunate that we have to have things like this to make a definitive stand against what seems like a wave of violence across this country as of late,” said Ken Brown, JD, MPA, PhD, FACHE, executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer for UTHSC. “Everybody wants to do something. Just by virtue of your signature, just by virtue of your attendance, just by virtue of your willingness to treat each other with civility and support each other contrary to a lot of what is out there right now, is something that you all as individuals can be proud of. We’re proud to stand with you.”
For the past week, faculty, staff, and students have signed banners with messages of unity against hate. More than 400 students signed the first day they had the opportunity, and many hundreds more, along with faculty and staff, have filled up three banners.
Exterior signage has being placed in public spaces around campus with the messages that “Hate Has No Place at UTHSC,” “UTHSC is United Against Hate,” and “UTHSC is a Hate-Free Campus.”
Chancellor Steve Schwab, MD, said the university represents all Tennesseans and is a place where only civility prevails. “Tennesseans are all sizes, all races, all religions, all genders, all ethnic persuasions. Among Tennesseans, which all of us are, there is no place for hate. There is no place for incivility. There is no place for lack of courtesy to each other.”
UTHSC College of Medicine Executive Dean Scott Strome, MD, encouraged all present to address the obvious instances of hate through civil discourse; support of leaders who refuse to allow hate to define social status, well-being, or the right to belong; and through acts of kindness.
“While all of these actions have merit, there is a more pernicious and insidious form of hate that is harder to eradicate,” he said. “This form of hate lurks in the corners of our society, manifesting itself in the form of a gunman who enters a synagogue, in the form of a person who targets a predominantly black church, in the form of an individual who sends pipe bombs to our political and social leaders, and in the form of a killer in a yoga studio.
“Addressing this form of hate requires calling it out into the light and then striking at its roots, even if it sometimes means acting alone and in the face of people who harbor goodness within but fail to understand the impact of their intrinsic bias on the welfare of others,” he said. “Addressing this form of hate forces us to recognize that we bear such biases, and pledge to listen and to act upon feedback that paints a portrait of ourselves that we may be ashamed to acknowledge. Addressing this form of hate requires introspection, courage, and action.”
Dr. Strome said health care professionals have an obligation to stand against hate in all forms. “It has been said that for those to whom much as been given, much is expected,” he said. He recounted a story of how a first grade teacher taught him an early lesson in combating hate by not meeting wrongdoing with wrongdoing. “As health care professionals, we are fortunate to be respected by many, which gives our voice a broader reach. It is therefore incumbent upon us to try and share the lesson that I learned so many years ago.”