The University of Texas at Dallas has removed its historic campus “spirit rocks” because recent pro-Israel vs. pro-Palestine messages were “inconsistent” with the rocks’ original purpose.
The rocks have long been a venue where students have been free to spray paint public messages.
According to a Nov. 20 announcement from the UTD Division of Student Affairs, the rocks were “not intended to be a display for extended political discourse.” The department also stated that recent messages were negatively impacting people on and off campus.
The Mercury, UT Dallas’ student newspaper, published photos of the various messages spray painted over the spirit rocks in recent weeks.
Some of these slogans included pro-Palestine messaging like “Free Palestine” and “End Occupation.” Others expressed pro-Israeli sentiments such as “We are winning” accompanied by the Israeli flag and “USA Stands with Israel.”
Despite the vast difference in publicly-expressed sentiments towards Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack, an Instagram poll conducted by The Mercury found that 92 percent of the 1532 participants opposed the removal of the stones.
Benson stated that “Clearly, there can be no justification for the atrocities committed by the terrorist group Hamas, which targeted, killed and kidnapped innocent Israeli civilians, including children.”
In response, Fatimah Azeem—editor-in-chief of The Mercury—along with two other editors wrote, “Benson needs to do better.”
“The university should release an apology and a new statement acknowledging not just the Oct. 7 attack on Israel, but also the current bombings and deaths in Gaza, and extend support to all parties as soon as possible,” they wrote.
Nevertheless, despite the varying political viewpoints of students, many still took to social media to express their disapproval regarding the decision to remove the stones.
The comments section under UT Dallas’ latest Instagram post features students repeatedly mocking a sign that reads “#1 Esports Program in Texas.”
“#1 in being scared of rocks,” one student commented. Another said “#1 in lacking a spine.”
Still others commented “#1 in clown behavior,” “#1 in censoring student voices!! You can’t pick and choose freedom of speech,” and “#1 in disappointing all its students by staying silent of the genocide going on.”
UT Dallas did not respond to a request for comment.