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We Are All in This Together

March 24, 2020 at 2:20 pm

Greetings Volunteer community,

I want to take a moment to share with you some important things to consider as we navigate these uncertain times.

Over the past few weeks, we have faced unprecedented challenges with the news of the spread of COVID-19 both nationally and locally. These uncertain times have brought about anxiety, fear, and frustration as people try to make sense of the many implications of the pandemic on their communities, families, and friends.

As we have seen in recent weeks, the situation has also provoked feelings of resentment toward certain members of our community and society due to their perceived identities and symptoms.

While each of us is impacted by this situation differently, it is important for us to realize that we are all in this together. The role of the Office of Diversity and Engagement is to foster inclusive learning and work environments—even online—where everyone is valued and respected. Though this charge may be specific to our team, we cannot make this vision a reality without your help. Together, as members of the Volunteer community, we must all make intentional efforts to show empathy, compassion, and kindness, particularly to those for whom these times may be especially stressful.

So how do we do this? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has published guidance for reducing stigma against others as we continue to work though this evolving situation. Here are just a few of those ideas:

  • Raise awareness about COVID-19 without increasing fear
  • Share accurate information about how the virus spreads
  • Speak out against negative behaviors, including negative statements on social media about groups of people or exclusion of people who pose no risk from regular activities

Other strategies to help one another during this time include:

  • Reaching out to friends and loved ones who may be experiencing bias during this time
  • Reporting bias incidents through the proper channels should you encounter them
  • Sharing resources with local organizations that help to support local and national communities in need

In addition to these suggestions, we also want to remind you of the resources we have on campus to help those of you who may be navigating concerns around bias or needing additional support:

  • Students can contact the Office of the Dean of Students at 865-974-HELP or the Counseling Center at 865-974-2196 for support services.
  • Employees can access resources through the Office of Human Resources or by calling 865-946-CARE.
  • For more information regarding bias or to make a report, visit

Though these are challenging times, we all have a role in creating an inclusive environment for all members of our community. Let’s make a commitment today to be kind, compassionate, and gracious to one another so we can make Rocky Top a place where everyone matters and belongs.

Tyvi Small
Vice Chancellor for Diversity and Engagement

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