“This is the second time in as many weeks that the Rock has been used to communicate hate,” the news release said. “These messages, which are hurtful and threatening to many members of our community, do not represent our Volunteer values.”
The Rock, a 97.5-ton slab of dolomite stone — has been a fixture at the University’s Knoxville campus since the 1960s.
The statement did not describe the content of the messages, but a Facebook post by Sandra Starr Marquis, showed a painting of the Vols' mascot, Smokey, had defaced with swastikas and other hate messages, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported.
The university’s student government president, Ovi Kabir, tweeted a photo of The Rock after it had been painted over with a message with the word “Love.”
"Signs of hate and bigotry have no place on our Rock or our campus," Kabir tweeted. "Attempts to divide our community have and will always fall short because as Vols, we stand undivided against injustice."
Less than two weeks ago, a group for Jewish students held a vigil at the university to honor the worshippers killed at a Pittsburgh synagogue last month. The Rock was painted with a Pittsburgh Steelers logo that included a Star of David and the words “Stronger Than Hate,” the News Sentinel reported.
Two days later, some students noticed The Rock had been defaced to say "Stronger Through Hate," and a swastika had been painted over the Star of David, the newspaper reported.