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Austin East Community Support

Dear faculty and staff,

Our hearts ache for the family of Anthony Thompson Jr., and we grieve alongside members of the Austin-East community who have been shaken by yet another unspeakable tragedy.

Austin-East Magnet High School is an important and vibrant part of both the Knoxville community and our UT community. It is a UT Flagship school, and we have Austin-East graduates in our classrooms. Austin-East graduates and parents are members of our faculty and staff. Our students work in Austin-East classrooms as student teachers. Our partnership with Austin-East is important to us, as are their students, families, and leaders. We will do all we can to support them as they work through their pain and grief.

UT also has a role in supporting efforts to enact change and bring healing to our community. We have several long-standing partnerships with the school and will look for additional ways we can use university resources to meet the needs of Austin-East students and community members. I ask each of you to support Austin-East in any way you can. The Commission for Blacks has pulled together specific steps anyone can take and will be communicating them widely.
We have support and resources available to help members of the campus community process this tragedy. Students who are experiencing distress or need help can call our care team at 865-974-HELP (4357) or visit the 974-HELP website. Faculty and staff who are in distress can call 865-946-CARE (2273).
Please take care of yourselves and one another.

Donde Plowman

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. 

EAP Support for UT Faculty and Staff

How You Can Help

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