University of Wisconsin Removed a Boulder Because of its Racist History

"Now is a moment for all of us BIPOC students to breathe a sigh of relief, to be proud of our endurance, and to begin healing," said one student

A 42-ton boulder has been removed from the Madison campus of the University of Wisconsin (UW) following complaints from minority students.

Chamberlin Rock, as it is known, was named for Thomas Chamberlin, a geologist and former university president who served from 1887 to 1892. It has been at Observatory Point since 1925.

“A 1925 Wisconsin State Journal article used the n-word as part of a nickname for the giant boulder. The Wisconsin Black Student Union last summer called for the rock to be removed from campus as one of a series of demands it said were aimed at seeking justice for Black students,” says CNN.

The previous president of the Wisconsin Black Student Union, Nalah McWhorter, said in a university news release, “It was about a year ago that we released our demands and met with the chancellor and explained to her why those demands meant so much to us. It was a powerful moment today to see this demand come full circle.”

Wunk Sheek, a Native American student group, supported the call for the rock’s removal because the rock was on ancestral Ho-Chunk land.

The Wisconsin Historical Society had to approve the removal of the boulder, as it sat within the area of a Native American burial mound. 

UW-Madison Chancellor Rebecca Blank approved the Black Student Union’s request in January.

“It took courage and commitment for the Wisconsin Black Student Union to bring this issue forward and to influence change alongside UW’s Wunk Sheek student leaders,” Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Lori Reesor, said in a news release.

“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. While the decision required compromise, I’m proud of the student leaders and the collaboration it took to get here.”

A crew removed the boulder with a crane and flatbed truck on Friday. The $50,000 cost was covered by a private donation.

According to a university spokeswoman, a plaque will eventually be added to Chamberlin Hall to honor the former university president.

The Wisconsin State Journal article from 1925 referred to Chamberlin Rock as a “n*****head” once.

University historians have not found any other time that the term was used, but they said the Ku Klux Klan was active on campus at that time,” reports the New York Post.

The rock is a pre-Cambrian era glacial erratic and is likely to be over 2 billion years old. It was carried by glaciers from as far north as Canada to Wisconsin over 12,000 years ago.

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