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University of Tennessee issues statement regarding protests during COVID-19

University of Tennessee student-athletes organized a campus march on Saturday to speak out against racial injustice.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — On Saturday, University of Tennessee athletes, students, coaches and administrators marched on campus to speak out against racial injustice.

The march was organized by student-athletes. 

This comes after four students at UT faced disciplinary action for not adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols. 

RELATED: Four UT students could be expelled for violating COVID-19 safety guidelines

Fraternities and sororities have also been placed on interim suspension for holding large gatherings. 

RELATED: UT identifies 5 fraternities, 1 sorority on interim suspension for holding large gatherings

On Monday, the University of Tennessee issued the following statement below:

This event Saturday was a free speech assembly led by student-athletes to protest systemic racism. The Campus Free Speech Protection Act requires the University to  maintain the generally accessible, open, outdoor areas of its campus as traditional public forums for free speech by students. As with any event in the pandemic, organizers are asked to follow safety guidelines. The student organizers sought input from UT staff, largely in the Athletics Department, and worked hard to put appropriate safety measures in place. Event organizers handed out masks to anyone who did not have one. Volunteers held signs to remind people to social distance and wear masks. Cooperation with safety guidelines was excellent.

The university’s recent enforcement efforts under the student code of conduct have been focused on social gatherings, on and off campus, that fail to comply with COVID-19 safety guidelines. We continue to inform students and student organizations that they can gather, but need to do so in a safe way that does not put our entire campus community at risk. Students have been informed, for example, to keep social gatherings small, hold them outdoors, and wear face coverings. We are especially concerned about large events with no use of masks.