University apologizes for students pictured in blackface: 'The image is repulsive'

A photo of UTK students in blackface surfaces online. (Photo: Twitter)
A photo of UTK students in blackface surfaces online. (Photo: Twitter)

The University of Tennessee Knoxville is apologizing for the “repulsive” behavior of a few of its students after an image featuring two individuals in blackface surfaced online.

A student unrelated to the incident took to her Twitter on Thursday morning to share the image of four fellow UTK students, which was originally sent through Snapchat. The screenshot featured two of the white students wearing what appears to be charcoal face masks and includes racial comments via the on-screen text — including the hashtag “#blacklivesmatter.”

The students pictured are allegedly Cheyan Gregory, George Morency, Blake Hensley and Ethan Kelly. Ethan, reportedly one of the students in blackface, issued an apology on Twitter under Ethan Feick, writing that the “unnecessary, immature comment” was “a dumb decision.”

Cheyan, one of the two not pictured in blackface, also wrote an apology to the Twitter user who posted the photo and said she wasn’t aware that the person who posted it to Snapchat would be writing those racist remarks.

People throughout the replies asked that administrators at the university address the issue, and thanked the Twitter user “jas” for publicizing the image in an effort to bring it to the university’s attention.

On Thursday afternoon, the university responded with a statement.

“The image is repulsive and the caption abhorrent. The racism displayed in this image does not represent the behavior we expect of students or our Volunteer values,” the statement read in part. “The BIAS Education Response Team — in collaboration with the Office of the Dean of Students — has been made aware of the situation and the university is determining how to handle this incident.”

The statement went on to clarify that federal law prohibits the university from disclosing the punishment of individual students. However, a petition created by a student named Misty McPhetridge is calling for the school to enforce a “zero tolerance policy towards racism and hate speech” and expel the students in question.

On Thursday evening, the university’s Office of Multicultural Student Life hosted an event at the Frieson Black Cultural Center to discuss “recent campus events.”

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