Friday, April 20, 2007

From IMRA, here is the latest First Amendment melee (Hat tip: Lois):


Joshua H. Stulman, the former Penn State art student whose anti-terrorism artwork was censored by Penn State, and who was labeled a racist propagandist for Israel by two professors, filed a Complaint in federal court last night, claiming violations of his First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and expression and of association, and that he was defamed by School of Visual Arts Director Charles Garoian.

Stulman created a series of paintings, "Portraits of Terror," to address the issues of Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism in Israel. Each of the paintings in the series is based on news articles, photographs and well-documented research.


Penn State officials and the Muslim Student Association advisor who professed concern about Stulman's work refused Stulman's repeated efforts to meet with them.

Penn State art professor Robert Yarber, also a named defendant in this lawsuit, labeled Stulman a racist propagandist who promoted Islamophobia, and said Israel was a terrorist state that had no right to exist.

An art professor slandering a student and putting the kaibash on that student's artefact? I might expect such craven ethics from a Cambridge university, but I still trust American universities to be of sturdier moral and academic material. Yet here is a university of some prestige and standing decides to ban an art exhibit, because its message offends the received wisdom of its Muslim Students Association.

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Well, I checked further into this story. It looks like I misspoke. This is not the "latest" incident since it happened a year ago. I should have verified the date before posting.

Anyway, it's hard to find out exactly what happened. But apparently, the initial ban was removed due to the interference of the President of Penn State University and the exhibit was allowed to go on. Whether it did, after all, is not clear. Also, the student in question and the Hillel Student Organization which sponsored him demanded an apology from the School of Visual Art director. I could not find anywhere that such an apology was offered. Maybe this is the incentive for the complaint submitted by Stulman, who is no longer a student there.

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