Students upset by vandalism on UConn Spirit Rock

The words "black" and "racism" were censored on the spirit rock that RA's for Social Justice painted.
The words “black” and “racism” were censored on the spirit rock that RA’s for Social Justice painted.

University of Connecticut students awoke to another instance of vandalism in a public space Tuesday morning, as the spirit rock, which was painted Monday night, was vandalized, with words like “racism” and “black” crossed out with gold paint.

Residential Assistants for Social Justice painted the spirit rock Monday night, covering the rock in black paint. White paint was used to write messages on either side of the rock, with one side reading “Racism: In Storrs Now” and the other reading, “Black Lives Matter” underneath a fist. By morning, the words “racism” and “black” were painted over.

The vandalism resulted in a plethora of condemnations from students, many of whom said that the incident could only be looked at as a racist act.

“The implications of this incident are so clear that I refuse to entertain the notion that there were any motivations other than anti-black sentiments behind the defacing of the original message,” Tyler S. Williams, who posted photos of the rock before and after the vandalism to Facebook, said.

UConn Spokesperson Stephanie Reitz said that university administrators and police are reviewing the incident.

“UConn administrators and police learned today of the change to the original message painted on the rock and are reviewing it,” Reitz said.

The incident comes just over a month after a traveling art exhibit by Rachel Lee Smith on queer youths was vandalized with messages left on the pictures such as “god hates the gays.” That incident led to the organization of a rally against hate speech and discrimination called “UConn Speak OUT.”

“Every day, small acts of hate threaten (student’s) safety and silence them from being open about their experiences,” Michelle Ma, an organizer for the event, said.

Alec Summerfield, a member of RAs for Social Justice, said that just 12 hours had passed between painting the rock and discovering that it had been vandalized.

“We painted the rock last night around 9 (p.m.), and before 10 a.m. parts of the message had been painted over,” Summerfield said.

Summerfield also suggested that the vandalism was indicative of widespread racism at UConn, and that the specificity of the vandalism, painting over only the words “black” and “racism,” indicated that the perpetrators intended to attack African Americans at UConn.

“I think the event absolutely shows widespread racism here at UConn,” Summerfield said. “Spraying over ‘black’ shows that many have an attitude that black lives do not matter.”

This is not the first time the spirit rock has been involved in a racially charged incident. In September 2014, fraternity Pi Kappa Alpha and sorority Alpha Kappa Alpha were involved in a verbal altercation over the spirit rock. Members of AKA were allegedly called racial and sexist slurs by members of Pi Kappa Alpha, and were placed on probation as a result of the incident and lost recognition from the university in March.

Summerfield indicated that the incident serves as a powerful wake-up call to people living at UConn that racism still exists and is still a threat to the student body.

“We have convinced ourselves racism is over, which simply isn’t true and is shown here every day,” Summerfield said.


0 thoughts on “Students upset by vandalism on UConn Spirit Rock

  1. Im pretty sure this is just saying that all lives matter and you shouldn’t separate the races by saying black lives matter. If you’re a living human being then this rock includes you, saying your lives matter. If they sprayed over it saying that White lives matter, then it may be a race thing, but i think this was more of a thing about unity and not saying that one races lives matter over another. All lives matter. Maybe if everyone stopped being so oversensitive and irrational there wouldn’t be such outrage all the time.


    • The censoring of black in black lives matter so that it reflects lives matter, a la all lives matter, is a purposeful effort at derailing the conversation away from the focus of how media and culture devalues black bodies and black lives. Too many people, the majority of which are white, continually fail to see how just because there is a concentrated effort to raise awareness of this disparity in representation of black lives and black bodies in media and culture does not mean that we are making an effort to devalue the lives of other people. To me it is as if white people are constantly upset at things when they are not made the priority in the conversation and something like this act reeks of “WHAT ABOUT ME” mentality.

      It is true that we are all one species but we have built a society that treats people differently depending on their race, gender identity, class, sexual orientation etc etc. Until those societal institutions can actually be destabilized so that marginalized peoples are no longer oppressed through tactics of erasure, like this one, then I see no reason why acts like this should not be called out.


      • You are assuming that it was a white student who did this. I think that might be racist, but in any case, what about Hispanic lives? There are plenty of other groups of oppressed individuals who matter. What about people with mental, physical, and/or developmental disabilities. To focus on one group does nothing for the rest. You can’t say you are against marginalization, then say this one group here is the one that matters.


  2. I do not believe anyone is being oversensitive or irrational at all; look at the news, actually pay attention to what is going on today, every week nonetheless everyday news comes out with another incident where an African American is shot and killed by a white man or some type of injustice is projected towards us; the saying BLACK LIVES MATTERS is a statement that expresses our sentiments towards the injustices that are constantly occurring towards us. Police brutality is a BLACK issue, a black person is killed every 28 hrs, and Black men between ages 19 and 25 are the group most at risk to be gunned down by police so this obviously shows the disregard for Black lives. BLACK LIVES MATTER states the obvious but the obvious has not yet been realized. Arielle Newton from Black Millennials blog puts it best ” Yes, all lives matter in ideology. But all lives don’t matter in practice. Should society and history tell us, Black lives don’t matter. When the murder of an unarmed teenager goes unpunished, and is further justified, all lives don’t matter. When a white man shoots up a movie theater, kills 12 people, terrorizes a nation, and is still alive … all lives don’t matter. #AllLivesMatter is a cheap attempt to neutralize the fact that certain injustices and brutality are experienced by those with darkened skin. Please do not reshape the narrative in attempt to remain colorblind.” Lastly, who gave you the power to state how we should feel towards an issue that affects us?


  3. This article is so racist.
    only black lives matter? what about Asian? Latino? white?
    lives matter as a whole isn’t discriminating against one group, like the original message did, it made everyone human and not belong to one race alone but as a whole kind.

    also this article is more racist saying African american. not every black person is from Africa, just like not every white person is from Europe. So a native islander is African now? Or born in France but goes to school in America is African?

    People who make huge deals about things like this are the reason why race is such a huge issue, they are trying to make it about black lives and no one else instead of the human race as a whole and begging for this negative attention. Yes racism is still around and is horrible, but isn’t this the same concept bottom line?


    • That makes no sense, Marielle. How does saying one thing matters equals everything else not mattering.

      If I say “Peanut butter is good” do you think that I mean every other food is not good? Obviously not. I’m just saying that I like peanut butter.

      Reading comprehension, please.


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