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MSU Alliance Speaks Out Against Transphobic Messages On MSU Rock, Demands Response From University

Photo of MSU rock with message, "Stanley Silence equals complicity."
Megan Schellong / WKAR
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Students are demanding action from MSU President Samuel Stanley Jr. after transphobic messages were painted on the rock.

Editor's Note: A previous version of this story said that transphobic messages circulated around the MSU rock in June. The correct date is March 2020.

The Michigan State University Rock has long been a symbol for freedom of speech on the campus.

Over the past year, transphobic messages have been painted on it during Trans Day of Visibility. It’s a time dedicated to celebrating the transgender community.

RELATED: MSU Rock Sparks Another Conversation About Equity On Campus

WKAR's Megan Schellong spoke with Cameron Locherie. They're the interim president for MSU’s Alliance of Queer and Allied Students.

Schellong and Locherie discussed the recent messages the environment for the transgender community on campus and these recent messages on the rock. 

Picture of MSU rock with the phrase, "woman - adult human female" written over it.
Credit Megan Schellong/ WKAR

Interview Highlights

On The History Of The Rock And Transphobic Messages

Transaction painted the rock for Trans Day of Visibility in March of 2020. Following the painting, in response, it was defaced with some of the most transphobic hate speech I've ever seen. There were pamphlets scattered everywhere with just the most vile of sentiments.

On What They See As A Lack Of Response From The University

It would be really great just to have this situation acknowledged in the barest minimum. This is something that is harmful. This is something that goes against MSU’s stated policies of diversity [and] of creating a space that is welcoming to all students on campus like this violates MSU’s principles.

On The Types Of Action The Alliance Wants To See From The University

The major thing that we want to see from this, so the second thing that Alliance wants, and this is our biggest action point, we want to see a change in the harassment policy to include hate speech. So that hate speech at MSU is no longer considered protected speech and to have the university actually step up and enforce their anti-discrimination policies in a way that actually helps the students it's meant to help in a way that protects marginalized students from hate speech.
Picture of MSU rock with pride flag and the message, "hate has no home here."
Credit Megan Schellong/ WKAR

Schellong: This is Morning Edition on WKAR. 

The Michigan State University rock has long been a symbol for freedom of speech on the campus. 

In the past year, transphobic messages conveying ideas have been painted over the rock during Trans Day of Visibility. It's a time dedicated to celebrating the transgender community. 

We’re now joined by the interim president for MSU’s Alliance of Queer and Allied Students. Cameron Locherie. They’re a rising junior at MSU.  

 

Cameron, welcome.  

Locherie: Thanks so much for having me.

Schellong: Can you explain what’s been happening with the anti-trans messages written on the rock? From my understanding, the most recent messages painted this June aren’t the first time comments like these have been made against the transgender community on campus.

Locherie: Actually, so Transaction painted the rock for Trans Day of Visibility in March of 2020. Following the painting, in response, it was defaced with some of the most transphobic hate speech I've ever seen. There were pamphlets scattered everywhere with just the most vile of sentiments.

Schellong: Cameron, would you mind just sharing some of the messages that were written on the rock?

Locherie: So, I've got some screenshots of the rock having sharpied on it [like] “Men can't be women.” That one was a fun one. And stickers placed all over the local area with a trans flag on it saying, "Men Sexual Rights Movement," which is extremely transmisogynistic language and plays on that extremely transphobic sentiment that trans women are not women, and in fact, are predatory in being transgender women, which is completely false.

Schellong: So, these messages pop up in March 2020, what happens next? Do you go to the university?

Locherie: When we went to the university to try and get that fixed, the university said, actually, "This doesn't count as harassment, and there's nothing we can do," and refused to open an investigation for us.

So "prohibited discrimination," and specifically, the Harassment Clause in Article Three, Clause Two of the anti-discrimination policy states that, "it is prohibited to harass any university community member or members on the basis of age, color, gender, gender identity, disability, status, height, marital status, national origin, political persuasion, race, religion, sexual orientation, veteran status or weight." So, those are all the protected clauses under the university.

And apparently, they define harassment as a specific targeted threat to a community members. And if statements all over the rock, a huge public forum, slinging extremely violent hate speech and calling for the persecution of trans people doesn't count as harassment, I don't know what does.

Schellong: So you go to the university, you don’t get a response, what are the top three actions items you want from the university at large or the president?

Locherie: Firstly, it would be really great just to have this situation acknowledged in the barest minimum. This is something that is harmful. This is something that goes against MSU’s stated policies of diversity [and] of creating a space that is welcoming to all students on campus like this violates MSU’s principles.

The major thing that we want to see from this, so the second thing that Alliance wants, and this is our biggest action point, we want to see a change in the harassment policy to include hate speech. So that hate speech at MSU is no longer considered protected speech and to have the university actually step up and enforce their anti-discrimination policies in a way  that actually helps the students it's meant to help in a way that protects marginalized students from hate speech.

Thirdly, we're looking specifically at different systems of moderation on the rock. And there is a lot of discussion happening not just within Alliance, but also with all of the Council of Racial and Ethnic Students [CORES] and Council of Progressive Students [COPS] groups about what that could look like, and what might be the best way to handle that.

But there is definitely a want for some type of system for moderating the rock, so that hate speech can no longer be put up here. There is no way to have a completely unmoderated forum on the university that can go out to any student on campus and be a safe place for students unless there is some metric in place that stops hate speech from appearing.

Schellong: Cameron, is there a message you want people to take away regarding LGBBTQ rights during a time now, especially, when the community is facing increased hostility?

Locherie: I was in a fortunate enough to go to a talk from Dominque Jackson. Jackson is a transgender activist and actress and just, general, inspiration for how I want to live my life.  And she said this phrase, and it's really stuck with me, that the world is getting more and more hostile because they can no longer hide us, and that is power.

And that's definitely I think what we're in now, not only in huge rollbacks of trans legislation and trans rights and access to health care. Things are really looking worse now, and they feel worse. And we're allowed to have whatever feelings we have right now whether it be sadness [or] whether it be anger. But, this is what the good fight looks like.

Schellong: Cameron Locherie is a rising junior at MSU and the interim president of MSU Alliance. Cameron, thanks for your time today.

Locherie: Thank you so much for having me. I had a great time.

Schellong: WKAR previously reached out to Michigan State University for comment. A spokesperson said the university is "disappointed that messages of inclusive support are being covered up." The university has not responded for comment on this story.

This conversation has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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