Sunday, April 23, 2006

PSU's Discrimination of Nondiscrimination

The above picture is an advertisement from a previous exhibition by Josh Stulman at Penn State University's School of Visual Arts. One which was co-sponsored by PSU's Hillel (You may have to squint to read the tag line at the bottom... It reads: "Opening sponsored by Hillel Foundation for Jewish Campus Life"). Stulman's latest endeavor however has been canceled by his University at the last minute for being in violation of the campus Statement on Nondiscrimination and Harassment and Penn State's Zero Tolerance Policy for Hate. (Read the article about it in the PSU Collegian Newspaper here.) His latest exhibit is also apparently (according to the school) not his own endeavor, but rather an attempt by an organization to push its agenda. "Garoian (professor and director of the School of Visual Arts) also wrote that exhibit space in the School of Visual Arts is reserved for students and faculty, not groups with a particular agenda." Strangely, all the art is uniquely his own and without prompting from Hillel, and the sponsorship of Hillel did not seem to be a problem in the past.

So what exactly is so problematic and controversial about his artwork?The answer... It's about Palestinian Terrorism. His gallery entitled "Portraits of Terror" was to display in the Patterson Building but was cancelled by email just 3 days before it was scheduled to open. The emails reasoning... His exhibit on images of terrorism "did not promote cultural diversity" or "opportunities for democratic dialogue" Sounds like a bunch of BS to me.

Now admittedly, I don't know much about the current campus culture and politics at PSU. But, at my university student groups like the MSU(Muslim Students Association) and other groups have been able to openly display imagery of Israeli "atrocities" and been able to paint pictures(metaphor intended) of the "apartheid state" of Israel and its"terrorist government" and during all these instances the groups right to free speech was upheld. Admittedly, by comparison to other campuses though, my university is largely apathetic and real issues are largely non-existent. Perhaps PSU has a legitimate fear of hostility and backlash as a result of the event, it's hard to say, but at the very least they need to be open about their true fears that cause them to cancel the event, rather then attempt to make ridicules claims as they have. At this point, however, it is very hard not to look at this as a discriminatory act by their administration.

Regardless, if anyone who reads this is actually around PSU's neighborhood, I encourage you to keep your eyes and ears open as Josh and Hillel attempt to find another venue to display his work. And when you do, try to make an effort to go out and support him.

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