All of these articles are published in Rising Rock Media and my school’s paper, The University Echo. For more information and articles, visit Rising Rock and The Echo.

Photo Night

The University Echo

UTC’s 5th Photo Night, an event put on by the Communication department and Professor Billy Weeks, showcased incredible visual talent on Mar. 6 in Derthick Hall.

Inspired by Weeks, this event has been a highlight of the Communication department for years. With the hard work of Professor Week’s and his Photojournalism II students, this event included a photo swap, door prizes, enough pizza to feed three hundred people, and four talented photographers as speakers.

Between each speaker, multimedia project videos were showcased that highlighted the talent that exists on the university’s campus.With videos from the classes Rising Rock Media and Photojournalism I and II, the talent in each of Professor Week’s classes were given equal opportunity to share their hard work.

Whether it be a skater who presents a father figure to kids at the local Chattanooga skate park, a hidden musician on campus who needs their voice to be heard, or the community of roller derby women with strength and passion that ought to be shared, each video showcased stories that matter from students who matter.

After each video, a speaker came to sit next to Professor Weeks on stage in an attempt to create a talk show like setting for the event.

Ashley Blair, the first speaker of the night, shared her wedding and portrait photography with the crowd. UTC alum and former editor-in-chief of the University Echo, Blair now lives in Nashville pursuing her career of photojournalism that first started in Photojournalism I and II.

“Those were probably the most impactful classes I had in the Comm department to me,” said Blair. “Learning how to use a camera, learning how to photograph, but also just learning how to tell people’s stories and learning how to represent them well.”

The next photographer, Doug Strickland, captures emotional and powerful images for the Chattanooga Times Free Press. He shared his journey as a young freelance photographer to full time paid photographer as well as how he is able to capture photos with so much meaning.

“I think a lot of folks have maybe heard Billy [Weeks]  use the phrase ‘photographing the feeling’ and that is something I am always trying to be conscious of doing,” said Stickland.

Kathleen Greeson sat down with Professor Weeks next. Greeson is a freelance photographer with work included in the Erlanger hospitals, in nominations for Pulitzer Prizes, and numerous photographs documenting her family. Living on Signal Mountain with her family, Greeson has a passion for photographing daily life with those closest to her.

“My personal projects, the biggest one has been my children. I just don’t want to miss anything. I want to keep capturing our daily life which is the way I connect with the world,” said Greeson.

The second to last speaker of the night was a good friend of Week’s, Wade Payne. He is a freelance photographer that has been published by USA today, Sports Illustrated, ESPN, Washington Post Magazine, and others around the world. Payne showed emotion in each of his photos as much as his words in explaining each photo.

“I photograph what moves me, what evokes the emotion in me [and] I try to bring that to you guys,” Payne said.

The night rounded off with an interview with none other than Professor Billy Weeks himself. Senior Communication major Allie Shrinker interviewed him to allow a fun end to the night.

Weeks showed the audience his joy of baseball through a multimedia project showcasing his work in something he is very passionate about, but also expressed his joy as a teacher and his connection with each of his students.

“I found through teaching that the more I taught, the more the students have taught me. I mean look at all the students have done here,” said Weeks. “I am completely humbled every time I come here and into the classroom. I know you guys think I teach you, but it is really the opposite, you guys teach me. I can’t tell you what that means to me.”


Why You Shouldn’t Listen to Ryan Adams

The University Echo

A recent article released by The New York Times on Feb. 13 exposed rock and roll musician, Ryan Adams of numerous allegations involving emotional abuse and sexual misconduct towards women.

According to the Times article Ryan Adams Dangled Success. Women Say They Paid a Price., “seven women and more than a dozen associates described a pattern of manipulative behavior in which Adams dangled career opportunities while simultaneously pursuing female artists for sex.”

From sources like Adam’s ex-wife Mandy Moore, popular indie musician Phoebe Bridgers and a young bassist by the name of Ava, Adams has been “emotionally abusive and obsessive” to these women.

One of the most concerning parts of Adams’s alleged behavior is his communication and seemingly obsession with a young bassist, a 14-year-old girl named Ava, now 20-years-old.

Adams, 44, and the underage female shared 3,000 text messages, explicit photos, engaged in phone sex and had nude video chats. The two continued their relationship for two years, until Ava was 16-years-old.

Since this article published, Adams’s next album release — originally scheduled for April, — has been cancelled, and their is an ongoing F.B.I investigation in his correspondence and relationship with Ava.

From discovering his music in early high school, Ryan Adams became one of my favorite musicians. After I read this article, I wish I had never discovered him.

These allegations, documented proof, and personal testimonies of the ways he disrespected women upset me as it does numerous fans. But even so, the courage and strength of each of these women to come forward empower me.

Each woman in this situation has allowed a space for more women to stand up for themselves in the music industry.

Unfortunately women, like myself, continue to endure some sort of behavior like this from men in the world. But women like Phoebe Bridgers, Mandy Moore, and Ava —women who stand up against this negative, abusive behavior — empower the rest of us to do the same.


Skater Dad

Rising Rock

Since his freshman year at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Trent Comeaux, a junior Exercise Science major from Red Bank, has been pouring into young boys’ lives at the Chattanooga Skate Park.

The Chattanooga skate community “has got a bad rep,” according to Comeaux. “It’s looked at as this vandalizing, rebellious, careless community of people who just don’t care about anything else but themselves, and it’s really the exact opposite.”

From his involvement with the university as a member of the BYX fraternity to time spent with a community of Young Life leaders, Comeaux’s days are always busy. However, he always takes time out of his day to skate with his “lil homies” or the younger kids that hang at the skatepark.

One fourteen year-old-boy boy in particular, Camden Parcell, has become an extremely close friend of Comeaux’s. “When I first met Camden, my only goal was to just love him,” he said.

From the skate competition that started the relationship to a daily outing to the nearby Wendy’s, their friendship grew into a much closer bond.

“I see Trent as almost like a father figure to me. He does so much for me and will probably always be there for me,” shared Camden.

Even though, according to Comeaux, the skate park in Chattanooga portrays a negative idea of what this community is like, the relationships between Comeaux and his “lil homies” shows the complete opposite. Instead, this community allows life giving and meaningful relationships to grow through something as simple as a skateboard.


Criminal Justice Professor “Spills the Tea” on Multiple Faculty Members

The University Echo

One of University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s criminal justice professors recently sent out an email explaining his disappearance from campus all while making numerous allegations against the university.

On Sunday, Nov. 25, Dr. Christopher Hensley emailed hundreds of students majoring in the department of social, cultural and justice studies sharing details of why he has not been on campus for one month.

“The goal [was] to shed some light on what was going on because there was a complaint filed against me, by I think seven of my colleagues, claiming that I was racist, sexist, [that] I engaged in sexual harassment, and discrimination,” explained Hensley in a recent interview.

However, Hensley was unaware of exactly how much attention he has been receiving in regards to this email.

At 8:56 pm on that Sunday night, senior criminal justice major Kacy Sullivan tweeted “OUR PROFESSOR GOT FIRED AND JUST SPILLED ALL THE TEA ON THE DEPARTMENT AND NOW IM SCREAMING.” This tweet created a thread that included the email as well as Sullivan’s opinion on the matter.

The original tweet has 8,591 likes and 1,368 retweets.

“He’s one of my favorite professors I’ve ever had, and I’m very disappointed any of this has happened to him,” said Sullivan.

From the talk of this tweet around campus to an article posted by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, the university has gained a lot of attention. Nonetheless, UTC has chosen to say very little about the situation.

The University is aware of the claims surrounding Dr. Hensley. The claims are being addressed in accordance with the University’s processes and procedures. Since the process is ongoing, the University is unable to provide further comment at this time,” according to a university spokesman.

Because of numerous reports against Hensley’s behavior on campus, he is put on paid leave. “They told me you know, you are on leave with pay, but you can’t come on campus, [saying] like I am a danger,” said Hensley.

“It’s kind of weird. They think I am hostile and stuff. So, if I am hostile, and they think I am a little loopy, why are they letting me teach a class on mass murder,” said Hensley.

From his employment at UTC going back to 2006, he has received tenure at this university. Even so, tenure does not necessarily guarantee that Hensley will stay on faculty at UTC.

According to the UTC Faculty Handbook, any faculty member with tenure can be terminated for an “adequate cause.” These examples of adequate cause include “unsatisfactory performance in teaching, research or service” as well as misconduct in regard to not following university policies, falsification of a university record, committing a felony, or theft on campus.

University officials have not publicly explained why Hensley has been put on paid leave.

In the meantime, Hensley continues to violate university policy by sharing information about the allegations against him and the ones he has reported against many of his colleagues.

“I am violating university policy by talking about this right now. I violated it when I sent the email out,” said Hensley.

Before the email was sent, students and the majority of the university were unaware of the situation. However, there have been numerous allegations and an ongoing investigation into Hensley’s case since earlier this year.

“This has been going on since February,” said Hensley. “This stuff has probably only built since last summer when I started sending complaints about my salary.”

In his email, Hensley explained his struggles at the university after being diagnosed with anxiety and depression as well as his sexuality with being a gay male. Neither of those areas were considered the main reasons for these allegations against him.

“I don’t think you can really attribute it to one thing, I mean there are multiple things. It’s not just my sexuality, because there were a lot of allegations that would be made towards someone who is gay, but then on top of that you have my mental health status as well,” he said.

According to Hensley, numerous of his colleagues called him hostile due to his behavior. By having office supplies kept from him to faculty meetings occuring during his therapy sessions, his position at UTC had been slowly stifled for months, he said.

The University will most likely continue this investigation over winter break and possibly decide on whether Hensley will stay employed at UTC.

This not only leaves students without their professor’s help for finals, but also leaves Hensley unsure of his next move as well as confused by the state of his position at UTC.

“How am I employed if last month they took away my UTC faculty ID,” said Hensley.


Barber Kings: Chattanooga One Snip at a Time

Rising Rock Media

Barber Kings, a well-known  barber shop on MLK Boulevard in Chattanooga, Tenn., creates a space where area neighborhoods find community.

Established in 2013 by owner Victor Bronson, Barber Kings has been a place where the people of the MLK Neighborhood Association frequent on a daily basis. Being one of the few black owned businesses on the street, Barber Kings represents a strong sense of the community and group of people that have long inhabited MLK.

Not only can people walk in to receive a professional cut or shave from one of their barbers, they can also come in to spend hours of time with their neighbors.

According to Master Barber Chris Palmer, Barber Kings is a place to not only receive a good haircut, but also a good conversation. By growing up spending time in barber shops himself, Palmer understands the effect a barber shop can have on people.

“As a kid, going to the barber shop was like going on a field trip. It was a place to sit and listen, to have conversations with the barber and the people who lived in this community,” Palmer said.  

By having a personal experience and understanding of the effects a barber shop can have on someone, Palmer and the other barbers work hard to make this shop a place for community.

“We try to make this a place where boys can learn how to become young men,” Palmer said, “We want to be there to help mentor the children that come and sit in our chairs.”

Even with all of their passion for their work and the people they encounter, Barber Kings recently changed locations due to the gentrification of MLK Boulevard.

The landscape of MLK and the neighborhood has drastically changed over the years. What used to be a street made up of predominantly black business owners has been flooded with people from the nearby neighborhoods and has changed to appeal and conform to a younger, middle-class taste.

These changes have allowed new shops, bars and restaurants to open up along MLK Boulevard as well as allow more college students, tourists and locals enjoy what this part of Chattanooga has to offer.

These new businesses like OddStory Brewing Company, 2 Sons Kitchen and Market, Hutton & Smith Brewing, and The Camp House to name a few, fall under the category of change on this street. Unfortunately, because of this change, Barber Kings could no longer stay in their previous location on MLK.

With these changes, Barber Kings had to face the choice of leaving a neighborhood they had spent years building a community with or work hard to stay and continue being involved with their neighborhood.

The shop ended up remaining on MLK, but changing locations to a little ways down the road. Barber Kings is currently located next door to Hutton & Smith Brewing and across the street from Champy’s Restaurant at 517 East Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Having been around this community for many years, the barbers have seen shops come and go. They are aware of these changes, but they are prepared to face them together and adapt how they see fit.

“I know lots of families who have moved out of this neighborhood. They talk about the way things used to be around here, how it made them strong,” Palmer said.

By seeing other businesses let these changes move them out, Palmer and the shop understand how different this neighborhood used to be. However, it is also important to them to be a part of this newly formed community inhabiting the neighborhood.

“These are the streets that musicians like Bessie Smith and James Brown used to roam. As this neighborhood experiences a shift from gentrification, it’s important to us to be an example for other ethnic owned businesses in this community. We don’t want to lose that history,” Palmer said.

Barber Kings is a business that does not let gentrification force them out of a place they call home. These barbers and this company represent strength, community and history in an important part of the city of Chattanooga.


Forever Farm: Red Clay Farms

Rising Rock Media

On the morning on March 19, 14 alpacas and one llama prepared for their yearly shearing at Bradley County’s certified organic farm, Red Clay Farms.

Owned and operated by the Shaffer family, Ron, Cynthia, and Seth, Red Clay Farms in Cleveland, TN provides homes for rescue animals, but also provides fiber for yarn and organic food for the community.

Starting with a son’s desire for horses, this farm houses three horses, four great pyrenees guard dogs, cashmere goats, jacob sheep, chickens, 14 alpacas, and two cats.

“We decided we wanted to expand to a fiber farm sometime before 2008 and that’s where we got llamas because they can be guard animals for jacob sheep,” said Cynthia Shaffer, mother of the family. “We went through the rescue because at that time alpacas and llamas were very expensive.”

The family quickly found out that the going rate for llamas and alpacas range from five thousand to ten thousand dollars. However, after discovering Southeast Llama Rescue Association, they were able to find rescue alpacas at a more reasonable price ranging from one hundred to two hundred dollars.

“One day a big trailer pulls up and all these really wild critters come out,” said Seth Shaffer, son of the family. “So that’s how we really started getting rolling with the alpacas.”

The family not only saves money by purchasing rescue alpacas and llamas, but also provides a safe place for the animals to live and be protected.

“We do not sell our alpacas or llamas, we keep them here” said Cynthia. “This is their forever home.”

The majority of the alpacas on Red Clay Farms are Fiber Males with Suri or Huacaya fiber. The fiber from Suri alpacas provide more of a drape texture fitted for knitting and crocheting while the Huacaya alpacas have fiber with more fluff for thicker material.

Without shearing of their fiber, alpacas and llamas will overheat above eighty degrees and die. In prevention of overheating, every year around March, Jamie Jones Shearing comes prepared to rid the animals of their fiber.

Jones typically starts his shearing route at Red Clay Farms and works his way to Texas and further up north and the east coast for three months, traveling around fifteen hundred miles.

With an early and cold morning, Jones starts his season of shearing with the well equipped Shaffer family and the fifteen animals.

“I have been coming here for several years and Ron and Cynthia and Seth have done great since the beginning. They have a lot of experience and they already know what to do,” said Jones. “It’s a great stop. I’ve always enjoyed coming here, they work hard at it, and they make it easy for me.”

In preparation, the animals receive their dewormer shot, given every three months, as well as their CDNT shot, a tetanus vaccine given once a year, all administered by Cynthia.

Despite the distress and confusion of the alpacas and llamas coming out in spitting or loud screeches, the animals were shaved safely and quickly.

“Today was really smooth,” said Cynthia. “We sheared fifteen minutes per animal so we started out at about 6:30 this morning shearing and we were done by ten. So that was pretty good for fifteen animals.”

During the shearing, some people from the community gather to watch the event.

Collegedale local Sandra Twombly has been coming to watch the shearing for the past three years with her family.

“First time was curiosity to see how they do it and then the other two years I brought my grandson the second year, my daughter this year,” said Twombly. “It’s just interesting to watch them, watch them escape, some of them escape.”

At its core, the shearing of the animals is a necessity for the survival of the alpacas and llamas, but has turned into an exciting event for the community and the Shaffer family as well.

“It’s fun. It’s one of those experiences that it happens once a year and I enjoy more the physical aspect of it,” said Seth. “Getting to basically wrestle with the alpacas and having to grab them, put the halters on them, get them out into the shearing area and what not, it’s a very active morning so to speak.”

Each animal’s fiber is gathered and separated into two bags. Labeled by the animal’s name, bag one includes the longest and best fiber coming off of the body and neck while bag two holds the shorter, dirtier fiber used for smaller projects like wool dryer balls or added to the garden for organic matter.

With the fiber separated into sections, this helps the family clean the fiber and send the best to the mill to be spun into yarn and sold at local markets.

After all of the shearing, cleaning, and selling of fiber is completed, the family is able to continue their work on the farm tending to the animals and the community.

From creating organic produce like kale, lettuce, eggs, and more to creating yarn out of their animal’s fiber, Red Clay Farms provides rich resources for animals and people in east Tennessee.


Student, faculty emails are public record

The University Echo

UTC has the ability and permission to access any student, faculty or staff school email if any incident arises that gives suspicion to misconduct at the university.

Not many students remember signing the Acceptable Use Policy when enrolling at UTC, but every student, faculty and staff member is required to read and sign this policy.

When asked if she remembered signing this policy, junior and Engineering Management major Anna Kate Tenpenny said, “No I don’t ever remember signing a form that said that. However, that was almost three years ago.”

Unaware of the policy at first, Tenpenny’s first thoughts after learning about the policy were some many students can relate to.

“I initially felt that this could mean that I’m being monitored all the time. I thought ‘there’s no way!’ for a minute but then hoped that it was only for extreme purposes,” she said.

According to Vice Chancellor for Communications and Marketing George Heddleston, Tenpenny’s hope is correct.

“If there is something that seems like an emergency situation that warrants the need to go in and look at somebody’s email, then and only then do we get that right to [give] the okay to search,” he said.

Like Heddleston said, UTC searches only when emergency situations or extreme cases require to find out more information through searches like ones in email.

There have not been many cases where UTC needs to access a student’s email, but Heddleston shared one example.

“There was a student who was using his cellphone to photograph a test and he was sending it to other students. That seemed to me like a violation to good conduct and reason to search,” he said.

Associate Dean of Students Brett Fuchs also clarified on the motives of searching into student emails and shared another example.

“Recently there was a lead to a potential sexual assault and we had reason to believe email was involved in it,” he shared.

According to Fuchs, UTC rarely contacts the IT Center to search a student’s email because it is “not a normal thing and not something that is arbitrary,” he said. However, if a student shows some form of misconduct involving the university, then the school has the right to search in order to ensure safety for students, faculty, staff and campus as a whole.

According to the UTC website, in Section One of the Acceptable Use Policy it states, “As required by state law, the University hereby notifies users that email may be a public record and open to public inspection under the Tennessee Open Records Act, unless the email is covered by an exception to the Act, such as personally identifiable student information, proprietary information or trade secrets.”

As the policy states, all emails that go through the UTC system are therefore public record. UTC does not consider personal emails logged into UTC computers public record, but any email with “” or “” can be used and documented if given warrant.

After being informed in the process and motives behind UTC’s Acceptable Use Policy and its involvement with student emails, Tenpenny grew to appreciate her school in the ways they handle technology.

“Especially in the case of threatening messages, I think that makes me feel like theUniversity has the safety of its students in mind,” she said.

In hopes of easing students’ minds through the potential searches UTC may make on student emails if misconduct arises, Heddleston explains what the university does not want students to think.

“We don’t want the students to think big brother is looking at your emails and be careful what you write, it’s not like that,” he explained.

Instead, the point behind the policy is solely to protect the university and its students.


Snow Daze Leave Students and Professors in a Haze

The University Echo

Many students praise the emails announcing school cancellations due to inclement weather, but after a second thought, a university shut down can surprisingly cause more negative impacts than positive.

The first week of spring semester 2018 flew by due to a four-day week. Immediately following, the second week completely halved UTC functioning time by cancellations due to two snow days after Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

UTC has its share of inclement weather days from heavy rain storms, solar eclipses, and threats of ice, but the difference of inclement weather days in 2018 is that UTC’s first two weeks on campus lacked important class time, which created a rocky start for the new year.

When asked what his first reaction to the cancellation email was, senior Zach Mashburn from Knoxville, TN, said, “Absolute relief. Winter is so miserable in Chattanooga. Once a snow day hits, everyone gets to breathe for a second.”

While double majoring in Spanish Language Culture and Business Marketing, Mashburn also works on campus as a language lab assistant. When campus closed for two days, Mashburn was out of a job.

He explained, “It didn’t mess with my work schedule, but I needed a job. Scholastically, it put us behind. You double the work the next week to catch up for what we missed on the syllabus and I have to pick up more work hours to make up for what I lost.”

First Mashburn exclaimed with relief for the cancellation of school, but ultimately, it negatively affected the scheduling for the Spanish department and he lost money through it.

For junior Rebecca King, this is her third semester as a Nursing major. When she first received the email about the snow day, she was filled with dread.

“My mind was thinking about all of the things that I would have to makeup or would be moved because of it,” King said.

As a Nursing major, once or twice a semester there are check offs, which is where the professor grades your learning skills in the course. According to King, students receive two chances to pass the check offs and if the students fails, then they fail out of the nursing program for that semester.

Tuesday and Wednesday were King’s chances to practice before her check offs on Thursday. With school cancelled, her practice time was pushed back to one day instead of two.

“They had to change the schedule all day on Friday so our check offs could be then instead of Thursday. Literally everything had to be moved around. They did extend the lab hours for us to practice on Thursday, but it was still stressful,” King said.

From missing work to missing check offs, snow days may appear to be relaxing at first, but when campus completely closes down, work time is missed, which in can cause stress for students and professors alike.

In the words of UTC Safety and Risk Management Director Bob Jackson, “Much like taking a planned vacation, the off-day can be nice in the short-term, but the work still must be completed when we return.”

Jackson explained the decision-making process when it comes to closing campus for safety reasons.

“The foremost focus is does the weather create an unsafe condition on or around campus for our students, faculty, staff, and visitors?” he stated.

Even though UTC is prepared and equipped to make the right decision for events like these, days are not allotted for when campus needs to close down. Therefore, professors are not required to leave slack room for when the schedule gets pushed back for cancellation of school. Safety comes first, but that does not mean it comes without stress.

Not only does work pile up for students and professors, but the same occurs for the rest of UTC’s staff.

Jackson explains, “For those departments, like mine, whose workload increases, due to operations to prepare for and response to the weather, like Facilities, Safety [and] Police, it’s just another day keeping the UTC community safe. Sometimes we work even longer hours when the campus is closed, but safety is our job and it is what we love to do.”

In addition to the Safety and Risk Management department campus police, security and dispatchers also ensure students, campus and staff are safe 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Grounds and Facilities ensure that the roads and parking lots are constantly protected against the weather, like putting ice melt down for snow. Even during those previous snow days, Crossroads was up and running due to the workers for UTC’s food partnership Aramark contributing to the students.

When UTC shuts down for inclement weather professors still get paid.

“Employees who would have normally worked the day on which UTC was closed are paid under the category of Unscheduled Administrative Closure,” Jackson said.

However, this does bring up the question of whether or not UTC loses money during snow days.

According to Associate Vice Chancellor for Budget and Finance Tyler Forrest

According to Jackson, “When the weather turns bad, we ask everyone to take their steps a little slower, drive more cautiously, and help out your neighbors.”




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