George Will's Michigan State Commencement Speech Draws Student Protests

Michigan State University (MSU) students protested before, during, and after George Will's speech at the university's graduation ceremony in response to the conservative Washington Post syndicated columnist's offensive comments about sexual assault.

MSU invited Will to speak at the December 13 commencement ceremony despite a controversial June column in which he suggested that efforts to fight sexual assault have made “victimhood a coveted status that confers privileges” on college campuses. Students and faculty, women's rights groups, and even Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D) condemned the university's decision to host Will and award him an honorary doctorate.

MSU students used the Twitter hashtag #itsonyouMSU to protest the university's decision to host Will for the commencement ceremony. Before Will's speech, students lined up outside of MSU's Breslin Center in a silent protest. MSU Students United, which describes itself as “the autonomous student union of Michigan State University,” documented the protests on Twitter, posting pictures of students holding signs with messages like “Only yes means yes” and “Rape is not a privilege”:

During the ceremony, students turned their backs on Will's speech in protest, as Bloomberg News reported. Will reportedly didn't mention the controversy surrounding his sexual assault comments:

As Will got up to speak, about 15 people in the audience of several thousand stood up and turned their backs toward him. The columnist, whose writing is carried by hundreds of newspapers, made no mention of the protest, his June 6 column or the subject of sexual assault. The crowd applauded when he was done.

Protesters outside, including students, survivors of sexual assault and support group members, were polite and quiet, braving the chilly weather around the Breslin Center, the school's basketball arena and commencement venue. Some stood with red tape across their mouth and held placards saying “Fund Rape Counselors, Not Rape Apologists.”

Joy Wang, a correspondent for News10 in Lansing, MI, posted a picture of the silent protest

After the commencement ceremony, some students and faculty held a separate ceremony in protest of Will, according to WLNS reporter Christa Lamendola: 

Image via MSU Students United Twitter account.