An honorary doctorate being awarded by Michigan State University to Washington Post columnist George Will at MSU's fall commencement ceremonies is the focal point of protests in East Lansing today.

More than 800 people had RSVP'd and were expected this morning for protests that were also held earlier this week, according to organizers.

The ignitor is that the protests organizers say Will, who taught at MSU briefly the 1970s. They claim Will has a history of provocative statements and writings compromising and discrediting the severity of rape.

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon has released a statement saying that while the conservative Will's "visit will be painful for many, ... it does not mean the university wishes to cause survivors of sexual assault distress. And it does not mean we are backing away from our commitment to continuously improving our response to sexual assault."

George F. Will, a conservative columnist with The Washington Post, is getting an honorary doctorate from Michigan State University today.(Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Will authored a column in June that suggested women college students reporting sexual assaults have a "coveted status" with "privileges" on campus.

"This is a shameful time for the MSU community,” said Emily Kollaritsch, a protest organizer and an MSU student. “As a senior and a (rape) survivor, I have been fighting for four years to get MSU to take rape more seriously-- and they have failed time and again."

Will was selected last spring and was announced Dec. 2 as one of three fall commencement speakers, along with documentary film maker Michael Moore and Kristin Clark Taylor, President George H.W. Bush's director of media relations and an MSU graduate.

Will is speaking at 10 a.m. today at the graduation ceremonies for the colleges of Arts and Humanities, James Madison, Arts and Letters, Business, Education, Music, and Social Science.

“MSU’s continued inaction in the face of ongoing protests of their rape problem is shameful,” said Karin Roland, the campaign director for UltraViolet, which fights sexism and to expand women’s rights. “A school under federal investigation for inaction on rape should know better than to schedule a rape denier to speak at graduation.”

As an option, an alternative graduation ceremony is slated at 12:30 p.m. today by protest organizers.

Moore, a former journalist turned author, movie maker and progressive civic activist, is usually the lightning rod for controversy. That is because of films by the 60-year-old Flint native such as “Roger & Me,” a 1989 documentary chronicling the cutbacks by General Motors in Flint, and "Bowling for Columbine," a 2002 exploration of the circumstances leading 1999 Columbine High School massacre in Colorado and the proliferation of guns and the high homicide rate in the U.S.

Moore is receiving an honorary doctorate of humanities, and addressing graduates in the colleges of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Communication Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Natural Science and Nursing and Lyman Briggs College this afternoon.