Student Artwork Too ‘Controversial’ for Southwestern College

By March 8, 2010

The blog Save Our Southwestern College reports that a student at Southwestern College (SWC) in Chula Vista, California, "was prevented from rendering her drawing of the three professors suspended this past October" because "[c]ollege authorities … found it controversial and said that it didn’t relate to the festival’s theme of Women’s History Month." FIRE is investigating the case. The drawing, given below, portrays three professors who were banned from campus and suspended because they were with students who were protesting beyond the college’s unconstitutional free speech zone. According to Save Our Southwestern College, the student artist said: "The events that happened last October until today were and are still a part of women’s history. Professor [Dinorah Guadiana-]Costa, I, and a lot of female students were there! That’s a slap to a lot of people’s faces."

The Three

The rejected drawing was to be displayed among others on SWC sidewalks at SWC’s Fourth Annual Women’s History Month Street Painting Festival and Community Resource Fair. Here were the rules for drawings as stated on the registration form (PDF):

Festival Theme: "Writing Women Back Into History"

Please provide a brief description of your proposed image and how you will incorporate the festival theme in your art piece (Suggested and preferred subjects are those relevant to this year[']s theme). Replicas of masterpieces are permitted. Artwork must be appropriate for public viewing. No nudity, symbols or words to be used as advertising or pieces associated with major controversy. THE SPONSORS & ARTISTS ARE PARTNERS AT THE FESTIVAL. It is important your subject matter be something that the sponsor will consider a positive partnership. [Original emphases removed; emphasis added.]

Apparently, the artwork about the suspension of the three professors failed because the suspensions were counted as "major controversy"as though women’s issues throughout history have not involved major controversies?

Besides, as for keeping to the festival theme, I would really like someone to explain to me how these two drawings from the first SWC festival in 2007 have anything more to do with women’s history than the drawing above:

Album: Participant Finished Squares 2007, Filename: 28_Dominic_Pacheco.jpg

Album: Participant Finished Squares 2007, Filename: 33_CastleParkHS_Photography_Class.jpg

The selective censorship of this year’s artwork is both appalling and laughable. 

Meanwhile, the college purportedly is planning to revise its constitutionally infirm free speech policy, but more than four months after FIRE challenged the policy in a letter to wildly unpopular Superintendent/President Raj K. Chopra, it appears that the college has made no progress. Every day without a revised policy is a further infringement on the rights of members of the SWC community, bringing SWC closer to a First Amendment lawsuit.

When will Southwestern College learn to start respecting the First Amendment on campus? Maybe it will have to take a federal judge or some new leadership.

Schools: Southwestern College