UPDATE: UW Madison's $50k rock removal dismissed expert opinion against students' claims
At the request of student activists, the University of Wisconsin-Madison moved a boulder from campus for purportedly being a 'painful system of racism.'
A public records request from ‘Campus Reform’ revealed that top university officials could not find credible links between the stone and racial prejudice.
In the wake of student from the Black Student Union pressure, the University of Wisconsin-Madison moved a 70-ton that some school experts previously deemed to have no racist history.
The Chamberlin Rock sat on Observatory Hill since 1925, according to the university’s news outlet reports.
“In the midst of demands for justice following George Floyd’s murder last summer, the students wanted change on campus and they worked hard to see this through," Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Lori Reesor commented, per the UW article. While the decision required compromise, I’m proud of the student leaders and the collaboration it took to get here.”
Yet a Campus Reform records request revealed that some school officials had already decided in 2020 that racist claims against Chamberlin Rock were unsubstantiated.
In June, Campus Reform reported that Historical and Cultural Resources Manager Daniel Einstein told the Office of the Provost that "no such evidence" existed to support the claim that Chamberlin Rock was once referred to as “n*****head rock,” a common term for dark-colored stones prior to the middle of the twentieth century.
“Students making the demand to remove Chamberlin Rock have a responsibility to provide evidence to support their assertion that the university somehow has been responsible for creating/supporting/celebrating a racist artifact," Einstein wrote to Eden Inoway-Ronnie, the provost's chief of staff.
Likewise, geology professor Gordon Medaris said in an email to Chancellor Rebecca Blank — who approved the rock’s relocation — that “in my 54 years in the Department of Geoscience (32 as a Professor and 22 as a Professor Emeritus), I have never once heard Chamberlin Rock referred to as a ‘n*****head.”
Students alleged that the structure was once referred to as “n*****head rock” —As revealed by a public records request from Campus Reform, university officials previously agreed that Chamberlin Rock has no racist history.
University of Wisconsin-Madison spokesperson Meredith McGlone nevertheless affirmed to Campus Reform in June that “Chancellor Blank approved the relocation of the rock after hearing from Black student leaders about the harm caused by the rock's association with a racial slur.”
The removal of Chamberlin Rock was estimated to cost between $30,000 to $75,000 in “private gift funds.”
McGlone told Campus Reform that the final expense was approximately $50,000.
Campus Reform reached out to the University of Wisconsin-Madison for comment; this article will be updated accordingly.
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