UK student activist cited for code of conduct violation after racial banners hung


LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – A University of Kentucky student who founded the ‘Movement for Black Lives’ at the school now says he’s in trouble with the university.

Khari Gardner says UK told him he violated the student code of conduct by hanging banners on campus that shared students’ stories about racism.

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“Not everything we do needs a permit,” says Gardner. “Not everything we do needs permission.”

Gardner says those banners told personal testimonies. For example, one young man said he nervously walked back to campus from Raising Canes as someone shouted the n-word at him.

Gardner says he’s confused why the notice was given, especially because of what he says police told him two weeks ago.

“The officers then told me, ‘We’re just gonna take the banner down. You’re not in trouble – etcetera, etcetera,’ so I mean, it’s contradictory to every statement they’ve put out.”

After the banners came down, UK spokesman Jay Blanton released a statement, saying:

“The core of the issue is the well-being of our students, faculty and staff. When members of our community hurt, we all hurt.  When members of our community are marginalized by hateful speech or discriminatory actions, we need to act; we must act. It’s our responsibility to protect and support our community. We can’t be a community when people are victimized. As such, beginning this summer, we announced dedicated efforts to spur cultural change and combat racism; efforts designed to take bold and decisive actions. Some of that change will take months and years. But the urgency of our work will be seen this Fall semester. Our collective work is to move forward together and now.”

Blanton also cited several actions the university has taken this summer to fight racism. He says UK still stands by the statement, but Gardner says he feels those were empty words.

“You want to talk to me in private and say you’re trying to bring change on campus, but then you want to silence the important stories that I’m trying to bring to light,” says Gardner.

UK’s signage policy says banners must be approved and can’t be obscene or discriminatory.

Gardner says he’s seen worse.

“Those messages were a lot more intense and were directed directly at students,” says Gardner.

Blanton says all banners go through the same approval process, and are removed when they break policy.

He says the violation is minor, and is intended to let the student know what they did wrong and not to punish.

“This action is just going to continue to propel our movement forward,” says Gardner.

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Bobbi McSwine joined the ABC 36 News Team in March 2020. She started as a Web Content Producer in November 2019. She was born and raised in Chicago, IL, known to many as the “Windy City.” She studied journalism at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign. While in school, she had a number of internships ranging from Free Spirit Media, ABC 7 Chicago and Illinois Public Media. She fell in love with writing in high school and paired that with a newfound passion for storytelling in college. She misses her hometown, but she loves the horses and rich history in Lexington. When she’s not working, she’s probably listening to music or binge-watching Netflix. She’s always looking to get to know more people in Central Kentucky, so feel free to shoot her a message on Facebook @BobbiWTVQ, follow her on Twitter @McSwineB_News, or send her an email at