EAST LANSING (WWJ) — Dozens of students marched around campus and into Michigan State University president Lou Anna Simon’s office to deliver 70,000 signatures opposing commencement speaker George Will on Wednesday.
Vice President of Student Affairs Denise Maybank accepted four boxes of petitions from the students.
“We are receiving the petitions and we were aware that students were having them signed,” Maybank said. “We understand the concerns that are being raised and we’re going to respond.”
Maybank said that Will is still scheduled to carry on with his speech. Will, a noted conservative columnist, has received backlash from some because of comments he made about rape and sexual assault. In a published article, Will called into question the notion of a rape culture on college campuses.
Emily Kollaritsch organized the opposition to Will’s involvement in the Dec. 13 commencement.
“Having our voices heard, that is the most important part to us,” Kollaritsch said. Kollaritsch hopes that people who do attend Will’s speech will turn their backs on him.
The university is currently under investigation for how officials handled two sexual assault cases. One of those assaults involved Kollaritsch.
“With George Will, he creates a very unsafe environment for survivors,” Kollaritsch said. “With him speaking, it is not about a diverse opinion — we are okay with him having his opinion. The thing is MSU is inviting someone who makes our environment unsafe.”
“Having George Will as a commencement speaker while MSU is under federal investigation for their handling of sexual assault shows that the administration really does not care about rape victims,” one student said.
Simon has said that the speech doesn’t mean that the university supports Will’s opinions and that the university is continuing to work on its response to rape reports.