The University of Tennessee Health Science Center (UTHSC) is taking proactive steps to deter acts of hate and violence on campus by concurrently beefing up its security and reviving its anti-hate campaign.
The school's anti-hate campaign began last fall and was brought back this school year to reiterate the school's commitment to having a hate-free, diverse campus.
As an institute of higher education and the state's only public academic health science university, Dr. Scott Strome, the Robert Kaplan Executive Dean of the UTHSC College of Medicine, said it was important to acknowledge that "we need to set value standards and exemplify what we believe is the right thing to do."
- Maya Smith
- Signs at UTHSC outline the school’s anti-hate campaign.
"We believe in diversity in all of its forms — by that I mean color of the skin, ethnic diversity, gender diversity, and all different types of diversity," Strome said. "When we can bring people who are diverse together, it makes us stronger as a university and stronger as a culture."
Strome said the university not only recognizes and welcomes diversity, but "we simply won't tolerate anybody who directs malice toward another individual for any reason."
Strome believes "hate starts locally" with jokes that "may seem funny, but are off color and hurtful."
With efforts like the campaign, Strome said his hope is that students and faculty will learn to call out insensitive words or actions, including those said or done in jest, when they witness them on campus.
"When those things start happening, we want the students and faculty to step in and say 'Hey, that's not funny,'" Strome said. "'That actually hurts, and that's not sensitive to who we are today. Stop it.' So, my hope is that we never have acts that are broadly classified as hate crimes."
Kennard Brown, UTHSC's executive vice chancellor and chief of operations, said though the school works hard to create a culture of tolerance on campus, "You can never negate the human element." Because of this, UTHSC puts measures in place to prepare for acts of violence or other major incidents.
Brown said the university has about $30 million worth of security upgrades in the works.
Some of those improvements include installing nearly 2,700 additional cameras around campus. "So we literally are watching everything in our environment to the degree that we can."
Other recent changes include installing automated locking systems and card swipe-controlled entrances, employing security guards to man all of the campus' public buildings, and hiring additional campus police officers.
Brown said UTHSC has more than 40 uniformed police officers who patrol the campus and the broader Medical District, functioning "almost like a precinct of the Memphis Police Department."
"No security system is all-encompassing," Brown said. "But we think we thought of most of the elements that we believe will make our environment a secure one if the need arises. As comprehensive as we make it, we still think about it every day. We still make a tremendous effort to stay on the proverbial edge of new technology coming out."
"The evolution of campus security," Brown said, will be an "ongoing activity."