Art, so I’ve been told by people smarter than me, is meant to provoke, to cause people to think, and maybe even to take action. Colleges are also supposed to be places where people are challenged to think, sometimes even by provocative arguments or displays.
But today’s college students and faculty are apparently such special snowflakes that not only are they not able to handle views contrary to their own (see: the yearly disinvitation season), but they can’t handle statements that actually agree with them unless written in simple, declarative sentences. Preferably in crayon.
An art prof at the University of Iowa made an anti-racists display that does what art often does: turns a symbol on its head, subverting its original use/meaning for an opposing purpose. In this case, he made a huge decoupaged klansman from newspaper articles of past and current instances of racial violence. Unfortunately, it caused a big ol’ hissy fit from students and faculty who couldn’t be bothered to think about it for a hot minute and determine what this art was trying to communicate. Seriously, a big paper klansmen made of stories of racial violence. It’s not exactly subtle. But it could not be allowed to stand. Literally. It was removed because the professor forgot to fill out the proper paper work, but the director of the journalism school even said, “If it was up to me, and me alone, I would follow the lead of every European nation and ban this type of speech.” So not are the students incapable of understanding political art, the journalism professor hates free speech. Comforting.
It makes you understand why artists go with stuff like this. Much harder to be offended by, except maybe the price tag.
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It’s almost as dumb as threatening to fire a janitor for reading a history book that detailed how college students defeated the Klan. (No, seriously, that happened. And the university only backed down after lengthy public shaming.) Apparently, the university-approved way of dealing with information about the Klan is shutting their eyes tight, putting their hands over their ears, and shouting, “Lalalalalala, I can’t hear you!”
“Too distraught to think” is something of an epidemic on college campuses, with law students at Columbia, Harvard, and Georgetown saying current events have left them too emotionally disturbed to take finals.
Look: I get that these are trying times, and I get being upset at the whole hot mess. But too upset to think at a college? That’s bad enough, but it’s disgusting that rather than help students be ruled by their heads and informed by their hearts, university officials reward and reinforce knee jerk reactions. Should we expect lawsuits over the next few years when these now-employees are “too upset to work”? Who wants to be the first to tell them life doesn’t particularly care about their feelings?