University of Texas at Dallas: University Removes Spirit Rocks


University of Texas at Dallas

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Case Overview

Since 2008, the University of Texas at Dallas has maintained outside its Activity Center near the Student Services Building “Spirit Rocks” available for painting with messages by students, sponsored student groups or registered student organizations. On November 20, 2023, UT Dallas announced it would remove the rocks because students were painting messages relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The university took the position that the rocks “were not intended to be a display for extended political discourse”—even though it had regularly permitted political expression in the past, under a policy that allowed paintings that “include but are not limited to” campus announcements. As FIRE wrote UT Dallas on December 1, removing the rocks based on disapproval of specific political expression could constitute viewpoint discrimination in violation of the First Amendment. FIRE thus urged it to restore the rocks to their original location and govern them in a viewpoint-neutral manner.