UT at Dallas, Spirit Rocks removed

November 2023
University of Texas at Dallas (Public college or university)
Dallas, TX

Identity of Speakers

  • Anonymous

Additional Information

  • Incident Nature:
  • Incident Political Orientation:
    Not Clear
  • Incident Responses:
  • Incident Status:
    No litigation
  • Did not involve Speech Codes


Since 2008, University of Texas at Dallas students have used the “Sprit Rocks,” three large boulders located on the campus quad, to display a variety of messages. The University’s Sprit Rocks policy suggests that it intended the rocks to be used for school-spirit related purposes, but it does not preclude the rocks’ usage for other types of messages. Over the years, the rocks have been used to express a variety of political messages, such as protesting recent Supreme Court rulings and policy brutality, or slogans such as “Vote Blue.”

Those idyllic days of free expression soon came to an abrupt end. In the aftermath of the Hamas terror attacks in Israel, students again started to use the Spirit Rocks as vehicles for their political messages. The University initially supported civil disagreement on the issue. But this disagreement apparently became too much to handle when students began including messages such as “Zionism = Nazism” on the Spirit Rocks. On November 20, the University removed the rocks from the campus quad in response, stating that “[t]he spirit rocks were not intended to be a display for extended political discourse, and because painted messages have been negatively impacting people on and off campus, our best solution was to remove them.”

The University’s “best solution” received overwhelming criticism from students.  A social media poll by The Mercury, the school newspaper, indicated that 92% of respondents disagreed with the rocks’ removal. According to one student interviewed by the newspaper, “[p]olitics [were] always discussed at the Spirit Rocks,” and that “[i]n reality, this is a targeted censorship.”Another student remarked that “[n]ot only was this a 180, but also the reasoning given was hypocritical, lacking and contradictory given the 15 years of history.” The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression has called on the University to restore the spirit rocks, but the University has yet to provide a response.