Michigan State University is caving to activist pressure and considering punishing students who write politically incorrect messages on the campus’ iconic free speech rock.
In an email obtained by The Daily Wire, Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer Jabbar R. Bennett insinuated that the school may place restrictions on the free speech rock after liberal messages were desecrated. Bennett said that “inclusion” and free speech are at a “crossroads,” and students may be punished if they do not comply with the university’s anti-discrimination policy.
“The university supports freedom of speech in all forms and expects every member of our campus community to comply with the MSU Anti-Discrimination Policy,” Bennett said. “The intersection of inclusion and free speech sometimes seems like a crossroads. These crossroads can be uncomfortable at times. But we feel they are important principles that need to work together which we should all honor. Based on events over the past week, we are having important dialogues with many student groups to discuss the impact of these messages and underscore our commitment to inclusive excellence.”
Painting the iconic rock first became a Michigan State tradition in 1873. The university has no written rules for when the rock can be painted or repainted. Students often camp at the rock to protect their artwork.
According to the university’s student paper, the email came after the rock was painted with the progressive pride flag and a message that read, “Hate has no home here.” Liberal student organizations began guarding the rock after other students wrote “Boycott your DEI training” over their artwork, referring to the “diversity, equity, and inclusion” training mandated by the university.
The State News reported that the words “Boycott your DEI training” were written six or seven times over liberal artwork painted on the rock.
The organizations that were protecting the rock and the left-wing messaging were the same ones that advocated the university implement diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training. The university caved to activist demands.
An individual named Helen Wilson, who claims to speak on behalf of a “large group of university students, faculty, and staff [who] have an issue with the DEI training,” said that the group will continue to paint the rock until Michigan State removes its mandated training.
According to WILX, the group “rejects the university’s unilateral mandate of the training” and believes that the school is violating “its stakeholders’ first amendment rights by compelling speech in their DEI training.”
“We believe freedom of speech is indispensable within the academy and threats to these freedoms must be addressed swiftly and forthrightly,” Wilson said. “Dissent is not hate speech. There is no hate in our message, and the claims that our [painting] has been targeted to cover pride messages is false.”
Michigan State alumni Sam Larey told The Daily Wire that most students were unaware of what was written on the rock and awoke to find out that their free speech may be limited.
“We awake to an email stating that MSU plans to meet with student groups — doesn’t clarify which groups so that’s troubling — to find a potential pathway to respect inclusivity and free speech. That alone is a red flag for free speech is meant to be free. It’s not meant to be inclusive,” Larey said. “Take it upon yourself to paint over that message instead of entertaining the idea of a school policing the words and opinions of their students.”
A spokesperson for Michigan State’s DEI department said that MSU still supports freedom of speech in all forms.
“The rock is an important landmark and form of expression of the MSU community. It is painted almost every day and there are no written rules for when the rock can be painted,” the spokesman said. “MSU supports freedom of speech in all forms. We have no rules in place that would limit the speech on the rock.”
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This articles has been updated to include comments from a Michigan State University spokesman.