In the latest case of University Chancellors caving to the ridiculous demands of pampered Millennials fighting back against the “microaggresssion” of our establishments of higher education, the University of Wisconsin-Stout is being forced to take down two paintings that have graced the walls of their Harvey Hall since 1936. The paintings which depict a French fort and fur traders with Native Americans canoeing the Red Cedar River are apparently “offensive” to the sensitive hearts and minds of the students on campus with the “Diversity Leadership Team” saying the paintings depict “acts of domination and oppression.” Because of the offensive nature of the paintings, University Chancellor Bob Meyer decided they were only suitable for “controlled galley space” that could provide appropriate “context” for the viewer.
Meyer discussed his decision to take down the paintings with Wisconsin Public Radio:
“There’s a segment of Native American students, that when they look at the art, to them it symbolizes an era of their history where land and possessions were taken away from them, and they feel bad when they look at them,” Meyer said.
“So, we want to make sure that, really, what we decorate our hallways with and what we put in our hallways is consistent with our values to try to attract more Native Americans to the university,” Meyer said.
University artwork has hurt a lot of feelings of late as we recently pointed out in a post entitled “WTF Headline Of The Day: “Racist” Window Edition“.
The offensive artwork in question in this case can be viewed below but we must warn our readers that these paintings are not intended for everyone and contain content that may be considered offensive to certain audiences, viewer discretion is advised:
Stepping up to add a dose of reality to the discussion, the National Coalition Against Censorship and Foundation for Individual Rights in Education spoke out against the decision (the full statement can be viewed at the end of this post). We’re quite certain that many on campus will find their logical argument against censorship to be “offensive” and expect blow back at anytime.
Of course, speech does have effects. Expression may cause offense and pain, or reinforce or undermine values and beliefs. But First Amendment protections are needed precisely for this reason. If all speech some found uncomfortable or disturbing were to be suppressed, public discussion and debate would be radically impoverished and open conversation about beliefs and values would be imperiled.
Such dialogue is especially important at a university, the quintessential “marketplace of ideas.” A public university fails its educational mission when it eliminates material because some members of its community consider it offensive or objectionable. Such a paternalistic response from the university impinges on the academic freedom of the faculty and denies students important learning opportunities.
Popular attitudes held by Americans in the 1930s differ from contemporary views—and, accordingly, are of historical significance. Conversations about history are not just conversations about what happened; they are also conversations about how we talk about what happened. Cal Peters’ work invites reflection on the politics of historical memory and presents a valuable educational opportunity. Substantive dialogue across the divides of racial misapprehension, anxiety, and pain will demand courage, imagination, dedication and perseverance. Putting Cal Peters’ 1930s paintings in a closet ends the conversation prematurely and to the detriment of current and future students and faculty.
For all those Millennials out there who are offended by this post may we please direct you to our official Millennial Sensitivity Training: “7 Harsh Realities Of Life Millennials Need To Understand.”