PSU Censors Exhibit · 01 May 2006

Filed under: Pennsylvania

PSU Censors Exhibit

By Jessica Remitz--Daily Collegian--04/21/06

For Penn State student Josh Stulman, years of hard work ended in disappointment yesterday when the university cancelled his upcoming art exhibit for violation of Penn State's policies on nondiscrimination, harassment and hate.

Three days before his 10-piece exhibit -- Portraits of Terror -- was scheduled to open at the Patterson Building, Stulman (senior-painting and anthropology) received an e-mail message from the School of Visual Arts that said his exhibit on images of terrorism "did not promote cultural diversity" or "opportunities for democratic dialogue" and the display would be cancelled.

The exhibit, Stulman said, which is based mainly on the conflict in Palestinian territories, raises questions concerning the destruction of Jewish religious shrines, anti-Semitic propaganda and cartoons in Palestinian newspapers, the disregard for rules of engagement and treatment of prisoners, and the indoctrination of youth into terrorist acts.

"I'm being censored and the reason for censoring me doesn't make sense," Stulman said.

Charles Garoian, professor and director of the School of Visual Arts, said Stulman's controversial images did not mesh with the university's educational mission.

The decision to cancel the exhibit came after reviewing Penn State's Policy AD42: Statement on Nondiscrimination and Harassment and Penn State's Zero Tolerance Policy for Hate, he wrote.

Garoian could not be reached by The Daily Collegian for further comment by press time yesterday.

Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon wrote in an e-mail message that "there are other issues involved in the display that has caused a problem, issues that have nothing to do with the content of the painting." Mahon wrote that he did not know all the details.

"We always encourage those who are offended by free speech to use their own constitutional right to free speech to make their concerns known," Mahon wrote. "This is an educational institution and people should embrace opportunities to inform one another and the public. ... We don't have a right to hide art."

Stulman said the exhibit, which is sponsored by Penn State Hillel, aims to create awareness on campus about the senselessness of terrorism and drew inspiration from images that have appeared in the public through newspapers and television.

He said he was shocked at the university's decision to cancel the exhibit and that he has tried to meet with Garoian on numerous occasions to discuss his artwork.

"It's not about hate. I don't hate Muslims. This is not about Islam," Stulman said. "This is about terrorism impacting the Palestinian way of life and Israel way of life."

Stulman said advertisements for the event were defaced in the Patterson and School of Visual Arts buildings, one of which had a large swastika on it.

Stulman, who is Jewish, said he felt threatened and abused by the Nazi symbol and is concerned for his artwork and his personal well-being.

Garoian also wrote that exhibit space in the School of Visual Arts is reserved for students and faculty, not groups with a particular agenda.

Stulman said he created his paintings on his own and he approached Penn State Hillel in February to help with advertising costs and food for the opening. He said the School of Visual Arts did not object to his earlier exhibit, also sponsored by Hillel.

Tuvia Abramson, director of Penn State Hillel, said while Hillel sponsored the Stulman's exhibit, the group had nothing to do with his message or content.

"We don't have a political agenda except to support the voice of Jewish students," he said.

Abramson said Hillel is exploring other venues for Stulman's exhibits to ensure his message does not go unnoticed.

"It's about opening eyes and challenging viewpoints," Abramson said. "Artistic expression is the basis for creativity -- but here, it was blocked."

--Collegian staff writers Meaghan Haugh and Devon Lash contributed to this article.

[ Friday, April 28, 2006 ]

Art student Gets E-mail Apologies
The professor who canceled Josh Stulman's art exhibit, as well as the college's dean, sent him a message.

By Ryan Pfister and Meaghan Haugh--Daily Collegian--04/28/06

Charles Garoian, director and professor of art education, sent an e-mail apology to student Josh Stulman yesterday -- a week since he decided to cancel Stulman's art exhibit, Portraits of Terror.

However, Stulman said the apology was not strong or specific enough.

Richard Durst, dean of the College of Arts and Architecture, also sent an e-mail apology to Stulman on Wednesday.

Stulman's 10-piece exhibit, which depicted conflict in Palestinian territories and drew inspiration from images featured in newspapers and on television, was initially scheduled to begin Sunday.

Garoian sent an e-mail message April 20 notifying Stulman that his exhibit would be canceled because it did not promote "cultural diversity" or "opportunity for democratic dialogue."

The decision to cancel the exhibit came after reviewing Penn State's Policy AD42: Statement on Nondiscrimination and Harassment and Penn State's Zero Tolerance Policy for Hate, Garoian also wrote.

Yesterday, Garoian wrote in an e-mail message to Stulman that he now believes that his initial decision to cancel the exhibit was wrong.

"I realize now that with the best of intentions, my actions, supported by the faculty of the School with whom I consulted, had the unintended effect of censoring your opinions and artistic outlook. I was wrong in canceling the exhibition and for that I apologize," he wrote.

Garoian did not return phones calls by press time yesterday.

Penn State spokesman Bill Mahon said it was not an official apology from the university, but rather made by faculty who had decided to cancel the exhibit.

"The university never canceled anything," Mahon said. "The university does support any kind of free speech."

Mahon said Stulman has had the opportunity since last Friday to put up his artwork with the help of faculty members.

He said the university had informed Garoian that AD42 does not apply to artwork or free speech.

Stulman said Garoian's apology was not enough because it did not apologize for citing him under AD42 or for using Penn State Hillel as a "scapegoat."

Garoian said in the e-mail message sent last Thursday that sponsored work was not permitted in School of Visual Arts space.

However, Stulman has said his exhibit Hodgepodge: Prints, Drawings, and Sketches, held this February, was sponsored by Hillel and displayed at the School of Visual Arts without conflict.

Stulman said Garoian also did not address the fact that his advertisements for the exhibit were defaced, one of which had a large swastika on it.

"That's a serious issue of anti-Semitism," he said.

Tuvia Abramson, director of Hillel, said he had received an e-mail message from Steve MacCarthy, director of university relations, thanking him for "helping to resolve the issue."

However, Abramson said he had not received a public apology to Hillel.

"If you hurt somebody publicly, you have to apologize publicly," he said.

Stulman said he plans to meet with Durst next week to discuss the time and place of when his exhibition will be displayed. Stulman said he had already reached an agreement with MacCarthy to show his work this fall with Hillel's sponsorship.

"I absolutely assure you that the College is committed to mounting the exhibition of that work at a time that is convenient for you," Durst wrote in his e-mail apology to Stulman.

Muslim Student Association Vice President Heather Barton wrote that it was legally wrong to cancel the exhibit, but she thought Garoian should not suffer "any enormous consequences."

"I personally feel very hurt and threatened by this exhibit, and I know that a lot of other Muslim and International students do too," she wrote. "I definitely feel that this exhibit [threw] gasoline on the already burning fire of hate and ignorance towards Muslims and peoples of Middle Eastern origin."