I was hoping to link to the article, written by one Blake Weaver, in the Lumberjack but I guess it takes a few weeks before they put anything online. Basically, a student named Sam Kirby drew a framed depiction of somebody shooting a couple of police officers in cold blood, ending with the bubble dialogue caption from the aggressor containing the word “bitches.” The artwork is along the lines of primitive Robert Crumb, only much angrier. It is clearly designed to disturb, and quite probably intended as an expression of extreme alienation, yada, yada, yada. . You will find it in the November 29 issue.
Mr. Kirby says it’s art. It’s clearly disturbing, and I imagine even more disturbing to law enforcement officers, and perhaps even more so to their loved ones. But it wasn’t intended for public view. It fell into somebody else’s hands and that person thought it would be a good idea to post it in the dorms in public view. What followed was a rather irrational overreaction from the HSU administration. Kirby was booted from the dorms and forced to undergo psychological evaluation (not a bad idea in itself but for the liberty issue). They are now considering expulsion. According to the article Kirby protested:
“Their reasoning for kicking me out was convoluted, the chief reasons they gave me were questionable,” Kirby said. “If I had malicious intent I could see why they would kick me out. But the picture was never meant to be posted. It was a work of art.”
The administration response is mystifying. Patty O’Rourke Andrews, the Assistant Director of Housing at HSU, told the Lumberjack:
“The handbook states, ‘Verbal or written abuse toward a staff member or another student will not be tolerated and will be grounds for judicial action, which may include removal from the residence halls.’”
Andrews drew a line between art and a threat and reads the handbook prohibition as including any drawing which “specifically targets staff or students and appears to be explicitly violent in nature.”
This is where I get confused. Is the Lumberjack article omitting something? Are the individuals depicted representative of some specific individuals employed by the university? The article is silent on that point. The article is also silent as to whether the administration believes that the drawing was posted by someone else. Is the mere drawing of a violent picture an aggressive act? Shouldn’t the posting individual be punished? What about the Lumberjack, which has now distributed hundreds of copies all over town? Either the article left out some crucial facts, or the administration’s actions are over the top.
I also take exception to the comments of political science professor Jedon Emenhiser who trotted out a refrain I hear from administrators too often, most recently in a case in which local school authorities attempted to prevent a girl from playing basketball for arbitrary reasons (we did win the appeal). The argument is that a student doesn’t have the right to – fill in the blank (attend college, play basketball, etc.), only a privilege. With all due respect to Professor Emenhiser, while attending school is a privilege, that privilege is protected by the 14th Amendment right of due process where public entities are involved. Weaver’s article may be a bit oversimplified, but he has the right idea. He’s just citing the wrong amendment. This is the one he’s looking for:
No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law
You can spend volumes discussing what due process is, but basically you have a right to be treated fairly. That means it’s not enough to actually cite a rule you claim was broken. You have to explain how it was broken. To whom was this picture directed. Was it posted on the residential assistant’s door? Is there a history we haven’t been provided?
In any case, I hope there’s some follow-up. Because if there isn’t more to this story, the HSU administration is way out of line.