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The UW System's effort to attract and retain top faculty members includes offering pay packages that allows them to compete with peer universities. (Mike DeSisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.) The UW System's effort to attract and retain top faculty members includes offering pay packages that allows them to compete with peer universities. (Mike DeSisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

The UW System's effort to attract and retain top faculty members includes offering pay packages that allows them to compete with peer universities. (Mike DeSisti/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.)

By Laura Schulte August 14, 2021

No, taxpayer funds were not used to remove rock deemed by some to be racist from UW-Madison campus

If Your Time is short

  • UW - Wisconsin removed Chamberlin Rock from its campus using funds from donations made to the chancellor’s office

Chamberlin Rock has a storied history on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison. 

The 42-ton boulder, named for former university president and geologist Thomas Crowder Chamberlin, is a rare example of pre-Cambrian era glacial erratic that experts say is likely more than 2 billion years old, according to an Aug. 8, 2021 report in the Wisconsin State Journal

The rock has been on the campus for decades, but recently became a source of strife over an old nickname. 

According to the State Journal, in a 1925 story the rock was referred to with a phrase including the N-word. At that time, the Ku Klux Klan was active on the Madison campus. 

The recent rediscovery of the nearly 100-year-old news article caused a re-evaluation of the boulder, which became a reminder to some of Wisconsin’s troubling past. 

Because of that reference, the decision was made to move the boulder off campus, to a location near Lake Kegonsa, where it can still be used for educational purposes by the geoscience department, the State Journal said. 

But the removal has caused other tensions, which were expressed on Twitter on Aug. 7, 2021, by Rachel Campos-Duffy, a host of "Fox & Friends Weekend" and wife of former Wisconsin congressman Sean Duffy. 

"It cost the university $50k (your tax dollars) to remove this ‘racist’ rock," she wrote. "These are the priorities of the woke UW Madison Taliban."

In the tweet, she linked to the State Journal story. 

For this fact-check, we’ll be focusing on her claim that Wisconsin taxpayers were on the hook for the rock removal. 

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There is not even a pebble of truth to that.

The State Journal report itself, the very story Campos-Duffy linked to and the touchstone for her claim says the cost of the removal would be funded by private donations.

That is, not tax dollars. And not tuition money. 

Just to be sure, we reached out to Gary Brown, the university’s director of campus planning and landscape architecture. 

"The cost for relocation of the glacial erratic was less than $50,000 (I don’t have all the bills in yet, but it will indeed be less than $50,000)," Brown wrote in an email on Aug. 13, 2020. "The funding is coming from the chancellor’s office using non-taxpayer dollars."

Brown went on to say that this was always the case for the rock removal, and the source of money has consistently been listed as donations. The donor, or donors, have not been named. 

We tried to reach Campos-Duffy, but did not hear back.

Our ruling

Campos-Duffy claimed "It cost the university $50k (your tax dollars) to remove" a rock considered by some a symbol of racism.

But the university did not use taxpayer money. Indeed, university officials have repeatedly stated that donations were going to be used to fund the removal of the rock. They were even quoted as saying such in the article Campos-Duffy cited. 

We rate this claim Pants on Fire. 

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No, taxpayer funds were not used to remove rock deemed by some to be racist from UW-Madison campus

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