MSU Rock Sparks Another Conversation About Equity On Campus

Jun 8, 2021

The Michigan State University Rock is generating conversation about race and equity on its campus.

The rock has been painted over multiple times since the start of Pride Month, and now student groups at the school are demanding a response from MSU President Samuel Stanley Jr.

Their demand comes after an unknown party painted the message, “Boycott Your DEI Training,” on the MSU Rock last week.

Since then, multiple student groups have been painting over the rock with messages like “Hate Has No Home Here,” and “You Can’t Erase Us.”

The MSU Rock has been on campus since 1873, when the graduating class donated it to the university. It was placed near Beaumont Tower, where it stayed for 112 years. 

In the 1960s, the rock became a political platform and symbol for freedom of speech. The university relocated the rock to its current spot on the Red Cedar River off of Farm Lane.

Last October, President Stanley announced mandatory diversity, equity and inclusion training for students and staff.

Valentine McWilliams is on the executive board of the Alliance of Queer & Ally Students, also called The Alliance. She said she wants Stanley to clarify the harassment policy on campus.

“We want the university to acknowledge that the rock is being used to spread hate speech, and to actually, like, do something about that and to acknowledge the way that their policies around what constitutes harassment are not enough," McWilliams said. "Because if this is not harassment, and if what happened at the rock last year is not harassment, then what is?”

McWilliams was referencing the last time the rock was painted over with messages harmful to some of the students. In August 2020, after a summer of Black Lives Matter protests, the MSU Rock was painted over with "Black Lives Matter Sucks" and "Trump 2020."

Along with those messages were a set of fraternity letters. The member of Phi Gamma Delta who was responsible for painting over the rock with those messages was later suspended from the fraternity.

Kenneth Franklin is the president of the Black Student Alliance. He says he wants the MSU Police to hold the unknown party that painted over the rock with the “Boycott Your DEI Training” message accountable.

“I want surveillance cameras around campus. As many incidents on the rock that had derogatory terms, words on it, that's hateful to one group, MSU Police never hold nobody accountable for it,” Franklin said.

In a statement, a university spokesperson says the school is disappointed that messages of "inclusive support" are being covered up.