The University of Wisconsin is moving forward in its plan to remove Chamberlin Rock following calls for the rock’s removal from students who say it is a reminder of racism at the university.
The UW Campus Planning Committee unanimously passed a recommendation for UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank to remove Chamberlin Rock in a meeting last week.
When it was first unearthed on Observatory Hill, Madisonians referred to Chamberlin Rock as a racial slur. While the rock went by this slur for several years, it was eventually renamed after Thomas Chrowder Chamberlin, a geologist and former UW president.
The racist name and description of the Chamberlin Rock is documented in a 1925 news article, according to the meeting’s minutes.
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During the meeting, UW Public History Project Director Kacie Butcher told the Campus Planning Committee there may be other records of the term but it is unclear because the archives aren’t well organized.
The removal of the rock will still require Wisconsin Historical Society review and approval due to the disturbance of the archaeological site, according to the meeting’s minutes.
The committee listed three different removal options in the request for its removal and disposition — relocation off campus, burial of the rock at its original site or total destruction and disposal of the rock.
In the past, Blank said she would like the sign commemorating former President Chamberlin to be moved to a new spot. Once the sign has been moved, Blank said the university can move forward with the removal of the rock.
The Wisconsin Black Student Union presented at the meeting, noting this is one of the four demands that the WBSU submitted to the Chancellor. WBSU said Black students believe the rock is a symbol of the injustice students of color face on campus daily, according to the meeting’s minutes.
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UW will submit a Request to Disturb a Catalogued Burial Site with the Wisconsin Historical Society during November.
According to The Capital Times, Native Tribes of Wisconsin will also be notified, which can take 60 to 90 days. A qualified archeologist must also be present during the time of the removal. With all of these steps, the removal will cost between $30,000 and $75,000.
Butcher told the Committee that the rock’s removal will prioritize students of color and allow engagement in complex conversations.
Once the rock is removed, WBSU president Nalah McWhorter said the organization will focus on how to reclaim the space by adding a piece of art, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
“So it becomes a way to celebrate instead of having it as an empty space reminding us of what it was,” McWhorter said.