A University of Tennessee spokesperson confirmed Wednesday that an American flag was vandalized overnight on UT's campus.
The flag, positioned outside the Howard Baker Center for Public Policy, was found on the ground early Wednesday morning by a UT staff member.
There was a "expletive" written on the flag, UT Media and Internal Relations Director Karen Simsen said.
They called University of Tennessee Police Department for them to dispose of it properly. UTPD arrived and took the flag away.
No formal police report has been filed with UTPD.
Photos of the vandalized flag were originally posted on social media but have since been pulled down by the user. That photographer declined to release those photos to 10News without approval from the University.
For UT student Nick Crawford, who writes for the conservative campus publication "The Volunteer Review," the photos were upsetting.
"My first through was what kind of lack of emotional control do we have as students or who did this, now that just because you're upset about an election doesn't mean you go and destroy property," he said.
While there's no indication as to who may have damaged the flag or their motivation, Crawford said he's disappointed in the university's response. He believes the school responded more strongly to a September incident where a Pride flag was stolen on campus and an anti-gay slur was left in a message at the Pride Center.
"It's kind of like the administration cares more about the Pride flag than they do about the flag of the United States of America, which has brought freedom to people for 200 years," he said.
The university issued a statement about the flag vandalism on Thursday.
"We share in the concern our community has expressed about this incident. Our country’s flag is a symbol of freedom, liberty, and justice and should be treated with dignity and respect.
UTPD was made aware of the incident early Wednesday morning. Unfortunately, no witnesses have come forward with enough information to aid an investigation. We encourage anyone with knowledge about this incident to call UT Police at 865-974-3114."
The university is working with a local Boy Scout troop to properly dispose of the damaged flag.
The university's Chancellor send an e-mail Wednesday afternoon discussing the election with the subject "A Time for Civility."
Chancellor Jimmy Cheek's full statement:
"Last night marked the end of a long presidential election process.
As is the case across the country, members of our campus community represent a variety of viewpoints and opinions. Whatever opinions we hold, we are all Volunteers.
I want to take this moment to share advice from the late UT alumnus Senator Howard Baker, who said, "Be civil, and encourage others to do likewise."
We have a unique opportunity in the coming days, weeks, and months to embody the Volunteer spirit. I encourage each of us to lead by example and to engage our peers and colleagues, even those we disagree with, in respectful and constructive dialogue.
Jimmy G. Cheek
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