• UCommune Activists Allege Administrators Moved UConn's "Spirit Rock" To Censor Free Speech

    Spirit Rock moves to the South Campus Commons on May 16, 2024.
    Photo Credit: Peter Morenus/UConn Photo

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    The famous "Spirit Rock" at the University of Connecticut was moved to a new home today on the central campus quad near the Student Recreation Center and other campus landmarks, though not everyone was happy about it.

    The UConn statement said the move accomplished two goals: "It places the rock in an area that is both easily accessible and highly visible to students, and resolves pedestrian and vehicle safety issues caused by its previous proximity to the busy Hillside Road rotary."

    But some students and alumni are upset to see this campus fixture being moved, including the pro-divestment activists in charge of the "UCommune" Gaza solidarity encampment on campus.

    UConn Divest issued a statement about the relocation of Spirit Rock alleging that the administration has been "increasingly bent on censoring student speech" since October 7th.

    Indeed, the Hartford Courant wrote an article about this very issue in December 2023 titled: There’s a decades-old free speech venue at UConn. Why the war threatened to end it.

    In the article, University Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz told the Courant, “Given its high-profile location in a central area of UConn Storrs, the Spirit Rock had historically been a venue for messages on school spirit and pride, celebrating students, memorializing people or events, or promoting student organizations."

    "After Oct. 7, there was a stretch of time in which it became a venue for persistent conflict, which is the opposite of its purpose to build and support the campus community,” Reitz continued. “UConn ultimately decided against making any significant changes to the rock at this time, including retiring or moving it.”

    That sentiment apparently changed since December and since the emergence of the "UCommune" Gaza solidarity encampment.

    UConn Divest alleges to have FOIA records showing that Provost D'Alleva was concerned about the "presence of a Muslim phrase written in Arabic on the Spirit Rock" and that was at least part of the impetus behind moving the rock.

    The activists further allege that UConn administrators were uncomfortable with the increasingly political nature of the messages displayed on the rock, especially messages like "Fossil Fuel Free UConn" which appeared during Family Weekend. And that administrators had been planning to move the rock to a "less prominent" and "less visible" location, contrary to the statement UConn issued today.

    UConn Divest called the relocation of the rock "racist, Islamaphobic, anti-Palestinian and anti-free speech" and a blatant attempt to quiet Arab, Muslim and Palestinian speech.

    Spirit Rock has had many homes on campus since the 1940s.

    UConn tried to assure students that the new home will off them more room to spread out and socialize while painting the rock.

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