UConn Students and Leaders React to Defaced Spirit Rock

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An investigation is underway on the University of Connecticut Storrs campus after the school's spirit rock was defaced.

Through the last month, Black Lives Matter is the message that's been on the spirit rock. The rock being defaced to read "All Lives Matter" caused frustration from both students and university leaders.

"It was a little annoying to see that even on campus," said Kamau Russell, a senior at UConn. "Black Lives Matter is not even a statement of any type of superiority, it's just like, want to be acknowledged."

The spirit rock painting at UConn is a tradition and is allowed on three areas of campus. There are specific guidelines and the messages painted are supposed to foster pride and show school spirit.

"It's just disappointing cause it's like you're dog-whistling that we don't mean much to you," said Russell.

The university said the incident happened on Sunday. The actions prompted an investigation to try and find the person or group responsible.

"We're trying to help spread the word and kind of reach out to our black community and kind of help them out," said Jack Stein, a freshman at UConn. "It's upsetting to know that somebody decided to feel the need to deface the rock."

Students repainted the Spirit Rock on Sunday Evening, that reads 'Black Lives Matter'.

Mekhi Amos is the president of the Black Student Association on campus and believes there are a lot of people who misunderstand the meaning behind 'Black Lives Matter'.

"There seems to be this misconception that Black Lives Matter is only for Black lives," said Amos. "The message we are looking to spread to the masses is that all lives can't matter until Black lives matter and the emphasis right now should be on bringing forth equity to those lives that for so long have been forgotten about."

UConn President Tom Katsouleas issued a statement to students on Sunday afternoon.

“Someday in an ideal world, maybe all lives will matter equally, but for too long, Black lives have suffered discrimination and racism. I’m sorry to see our Spirit Rock altered as it was today, and the insensitivity to that context that it represents.”

Dr. Tuitt works within the Office for Diversity and Inclusion and issued the following statement to students.

“ODI is aware that the Black Lives Matter statement painted on the spirit rock was defaced and altered to read “All Lives Matter.” This incident has been reported to the appropriate offices and we will be looking into the matter further. This act of Anti-Blackness will not deter the growing number of community members committed to racial justice from moving forward with our efforts to make UConn a more inclusive and equitable institution. Ironically, the decision to whiteout “Black” and replace it with “All” reinforces exactly why there is a need to have a Black Lives Matter statement in the first place.”

As for students, they're hoping these actions will be used as a teaching point about the message behind the movement and inclusivity.

"At UConn, we really do have a sense of community and while there might be some bad eggs, we're really working to make a change," said Jack Stein.

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