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email: ncac@ncac.org web: www.ncac.org

Joan E. Bertin
Executive Director

Actors’ Equity Association American Association of School Administrators American Association of University Professors American Association of University Women

March 4, 2014 Dr. Daniel Papp Kennesaw State University The Office of the President 1000 Chastain Road, #0101 Kennesaw, Georgia 30144 Fax: 770-423-6543 Dear Dr. Papp, As a coalition of national organizations dedicated to artistic and academic freedom, we are writing to express our deep concern over the removal of Ruth Stanford’s “A Walk in the Valley” from the Zuckerman Museum’s inaugural exhibition. We urge you to restore the installation to the show as soon as possible and adopt a free speech policy for all future exhibitions at the Museum. It is our understanding that Ruth Stanford was commissioned to create a piece about the homestead of author Corra Mae Harris, which the university accepted as a gift in 2008. The resulting installation, “A Walk in the Valley,” was taken down shortly before the opening on Saturday, March 1st, upon orders by the University administration. According to the University’s official statement, the work did not align “with the celebratory atmosphere of the museum’s opening.” The discordant element apparently had to do with the inclusion in the installation of Harris’ notorious magazine article about lynching, written and published in 1899. This is not the first time the article has caused controversy at KSU: a few years ago faculty members objected to the acceptance of Harris’ homestead on the basis of her controversial views. But rather than becoming a reason to suppress the artwork, the inclusion of the article could and should have provided a much-needed opportunity to discuss the complexity of historical figures as well as an educational institution’s responsibility in accepting the custody of a property rife with reminders of a dark historical past. The removal of Ruth Stanford's work is not only a missed educational opportunity, it also raises serious constitutional concerns. As a public educational institution, Kennesaw State has an obligation under the First Amendment not to discriminate against particular ideas, no matter how controversial they might be. As the Supreme Court has repeatedly observed, "'The vigilant protection of constitutional freedoms is nowhere more vital than in the community of American schools'"....The classroom is peculiarly the "marketplace of ideas".... Teachers and students must always remain free to inquire, to study and to evaluate, to gain new maturity and understanding; otherwise our civilization will stagnate and die." Keyishian v. Board of Regents (1967) (citations omitted). The explanation that Ruth Stanford’s artwork may interfere with the celebratory atmosphere of the Museum’s opening is not only

American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression American Civil Liberties Union American Ethical Union American Federation of Teachers American Jewish Committee American Library Association American Literary Translators Association American Orthopsychiatric Association American Society of Journalists & Authors Americans United for Separation of Church & State Association of American Publishers Authors Guild Catholics for Choice Children’s Literature Association College Art Association Comic Book Legal Defense Fund The Creative Coalition Dramatists Legal Defense Fund Directors Guild of America Dramatists Guild of America Dramatist Legal Defense Fund Educational Book & Media Association First Amendment Lawyers Association International Reading Association Lambda Legal Modern Language Association National Center for Science Education National Communication Association National Council for the Social Studies National Council of Churches National Council of Jewish Women National Council of Teachers of English National Education Association National Youth Rights Association The Newspaper Guild/CWA PEN American Center People For the American Way Planned Parenthood Federation of America Project Censored SAG-AFTRA Sexuality Information & Education Council of the U.S. Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Student Press Law Center Union for Reform Judaism Union of Democratic Intellectuals Unitarian Universalist Association United Church of Christ Office of Communication United Methodist Church United Methodist Communications Women’s American ORT Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance Writers Guild of America, East Writers Guild of America, West

an extremely weak justification for censorship, it seems to be a thinly disgused attempt to suppress further conversation about the acquisition of the Harris homestead. Besides being constitutionally suspect, the decision to remove an artwork because of its content violates well-established principles of academic freedom and displays disregard for the core mission of an educational institution to advance knowledge, promote the exploration of ideas, and train a new generation of informed citizens and competent leaders by exposing them to a wide diversity of views. If an open conversation about race and history is to be banned from a college campus, what claim to academic freedom can that campus ever have? According to the AAUP’s statement on Academic Freedom and Artistic Expression, endorsed by KSU and featured on the University’s website, “[a]cademic institutions are obliged to ensure that regulations and procedures do not impair freedom of expression or discourage creativity by subjecting work to tests of propriety or ideology.” The censorship of Ruth Stanford’s work goes directly against this principle. If damaging the “celebratory” mood was the motive to remove the work, then it failed: removing the work cast a dark pall of censorship over the opening. The action threatens to create an image of this wonderful new museum as a place of unchecked censorship. To avoid that, we urge you to return Ruth Stanford’s work to the exhibition as soon as possible. The show could then present a wonderful opportunity for organizing a forum on free expression, rather then giving the occasion for bad local and national publicity for the University, in addition to exposing it to potential liability for violating the artist’s First Amendment rights. Rather than try to avoid controversy by institutionalizing censorship, we urge KSU to guarantee that the Zuckerman Museum will enjoy artistic and curatorial freedom by establishing written selection policies that will guide the Museum in the future. Such policies will protect the Museum and empower it to show art from many and diverse viewpoints, including those which may spark controversy. Even though some might disagree with the ideas expressed in an artwork there are many ways to respond to such concerns that also recognize the free speech rights of artists, as well as the rights of members of the community who might choose to see a work. Besides showing respect for a diversity of viewpoints, such responses would have serious educational value. As a model for a future policy we can offer you our Best Practices for Handling Controversy (http://ncac.org/Museum-Best-Practices), a document jointly drafted and endorsed by major national arts organizations like Americans for the Arts, the American Association of Museums, the Association of Academic Museums and Galleries, the College Art Association and others. We would be happy to help the KSU develop its own policies on the basis of these guidelines. We look forward to your response. Sincerely,

Svetlana Mintcheva Director of Programs National Coalition Against Censorship

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