Protesters demand MSU cancel George Will speech

The Detroit News

East Lansing — Demonstrators chanted and marched across Michigan State University's campus Wednesday, protesting this weekend's scheduled commencement address by conservative columnist George Will.

The small group of 36 marchers, upset by Will's comments in a column about campus sexual assault, delivered petitions signed by tens of thousands of people calling for the pundit's speech to be canceled.

The demonstrators gathered at the Student Union, then marched through the "Campus Town" district along Grand River Avenue. From there, they made their way to the John Hannah Administration Building and the offices of MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon.

In a blog post Tuesday, Simon defended MSU's decision to maintain its invitation to Will. She said the school didn't want to cause "distress" to sexual assault survivors but must uphold its mission of "creating space for discourse."

The president was out of the office attending a funeral, so the students were met inside by Vice President for Student Affairs Denise Maybank, who accepted the group's boxes of petitions.

After delivering the petitions, the group's spokeswoman, Emily Kollaritsch, announced a sit-in.

Ten students were allowedin the office and the remainder sat in the hallway outside.

Kollaritsch told the media she was sexually abused by her boyfriend while a freshman at MSU.

"In punishment, they (the university) made him write an essay!" she said. "That's not justice."

Activists also point to a federal investigation of MSU's handling of three sexual assault cases. The nationwide inquiry includes dozens of schools, including the University of Michigan and Grand Valley State University.

"George Will will probably still speak (at the commencement)," Kollaritsch said, announcing plans for an "alternate" ceremony after the columnist's speech at 10 a.m.

"That's why we will have an alternate graduation for the survivors … because they don't feel safe at their own commencement," she said.