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The Commission for Blacks is a body appointed by the Chancellor to advise on planning, implementation, and evaluation of university programs, policies, and services as they relate to Black students, faculty and staff. The Commission reports to the Office of the Chancellor.

The Commission for Blacks recommends changes in or additions to university policies and procedures to reflect concerns specific to blacks. The group also makes suggestions for new and existing academic and extracurricular programs related to blacks; encourages research to identify the problems and progress of blacks on campus; and encourages black faculty, staff and student involvement in all aspects of campus life.


Statement of Support for the Austin East Community

Over the past several months, we have seen increased gun violence in the East Knoxville community, a community that embodies creativity, diversity, innovation, and the Volunteer Spirit. Our thoughts are with the students, families, and staff of Austin-East Magnet High School, the East Knoxville Community, and our first responders who reported to the scene of the officer-involved shooting at the high school on Monday, April 12th.

While we do not know all the details of the horrific event that took place on April 12th, we know that instances of gun violence have occurred too many times in this community.  It is the desire of the Commission for Blacks, as well as the other Chancellor’s Commissions, to explore partnerships and solutions to ensure that the East Knoxville community, Austin-East Magnet High School, and the City of Knoxville are safe and nurturing environments for learning, exploration, growth, and development. Students, staff, and community members should not have to experience the trauma suffered within the last few months. We simply cannot allow these instances to continue. We stand in solidarity with the East Knoxville community and Austin-East Magnet High School and are ready to support and amplify the work necessary to stop gun violence in our city.

There are many ways to support Austin-East Magnet High School and the East Knoxville Community. First and foremost, we would like to challenge the campus community to view the events of April 12th through an empathetic lens. While many of us do not have a direct connection to Austin-East High, we are all part of the Knoxville community. As community members, we have a responsibility to show compassion and care to our neighbors that are hurting. Secondly, we must actively work together to aid our neighbors in authentic and persistent ways. Below are some actions that you can take to show your support:

  1. Support the Austin-East Community Fund, which was established by a group of concerned citizens to financially support the education efforts at Austin-East High School. 
  2. Donate and join Cities United, which is a national program committed to reducing gun violence among Black males through strategic planning, community immersion, leadership development and community programming. To learn more about donating and joining the network of Cities United, and their recent contact with the City of Knoxville, click here
  3. Participate in the National Youth Violence Prevention Week in Knoxville, TN.
  4. Support local agencies and nonprofit organizations that are connected and engaged with the East Knoxville Community.  For more information about resources, view the WBIR webpage. 

We will continue to share and update information as we learn more about community initiatives and resources that will help end gun violence and highlight excellence of the East Knoxville community and Austin-East Magnet High School. Please check out our websites for additional updates and resources.

The Commission for Blacks

James Williams, Chair

Ryessia Russell, Vice Chair

JaNay’ Turner, Vice Chair

The Council for Diversity and Inclusion

Erin Darby, Chair

The Commision for Disability

Rob Spirko, Co-Chair

Jill Malolepszy, Co-Chair

The Commission for Women

Joan MacLeod Heminway, Co-Chair

Catherine Luther, Co-Chair

The Commission for LGBT People

Mitsunori Misawa, Chair


The Commission’s Statement on Current Events 2020

CFB Statement 

CFB Rally Statement, Resources, and Counter-Events

The Commission for Blacks is committed to the protection and retention of Black and African American students, faculty, and staff at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. The Commission for Blacks seeks to enhance the campus racial climate and provide a space where a civil discourse around issues of race, racism, and biases can occur in our roles as faculty, staff, and students. We stand in solidarity with colleagues at the University of Virginia as they strive to offer a civil and secure climate to their campus community in the aftermath of violent protests spurred by White supremacy, racism, anti-semitism, and racial hatred.

We join the American Educational Research Association (AERA) in condemning racism in all its forms and will work with others throughout the campus and the nation in the call to eradicate hate, injustice, and racial violence. We remind everyone as to the importance of using our educational institutions as a means of “studying, analyzing, and broadly communicating about” patterns and structures associated with White supremacy, racism, antisemitism, religious persecution, homophobia, and xenophobia. As scholars at UTK continue to contribute to our understanding of the inequities within our educational institutions, we will support the dissemination of the “knowledge and evidence” that supports “understanding and respect of others” while disrupting “the divisive patterns of disparity and denigration.” The Commission for Blacks sets as our goal for UTK that “No one should leave our classrooms or campuses believing that the symbols of oppression and killing are mere logos.”