KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — At a town hall style meeting on campus Monday, students at the University of Tennessee demanded action and asked pointed questions of a panel of school leaders.
The meeting was called after a photo surfaced online last week showing UT students in blackface with the caption "about to get this free college now that I'm black."
At the meeting, administrators said the students photographed were not likely to face expulsion because "they were exercising their First Amendment right" to free speech.
The Vice Chancellor for Student Life said the school is considering other disciplinary actions.
The mood at the meeting was set with the very first question.
A student stood in front of the crowded ballroom and asked "Can you explain to everybody here why the incident that happened, the racial incident that happened was wrong? It's fine to say it's wrong, but why is blackface wrong?"
The panel of assembled administrators, including interim Chancellor Wayne Davis, paused for more than 30 seconds and appeared to look at each other to decide who would respond before asking for clarification on the question.
Student leaders said there needs to be a culture change at UT.
"I think we have students of color on this campus that do not feel like this is a home for them," Ovi Kabir, the student body president, told 10News. "Blackface has no place on our campus. Any racist remarks, things like that should not belong on our campus."
The question many students had for administrators Monday: what are they going to do about it?
"It's hurt our campus," interim Chancellor Wayne Davis said. "And we're trying to move forward. However we cannot solve everything in an immediate way. But we are implementing longer term solutions."
One possibility is adding diversity courses to the core classes students take.
But students at the meeting remained upset, noting previous racist incidents in UT's past that make them skeptical the university will change.
"We have sat in front of you and told you all of this before," one student said.