Student Suing Penn State for Art Censorship

By June 21, 2007

Last April we reported that Penn State censored student Josh Stulman’s senior art exhibit, “Portraits of Terror,” which depicted Palestinian violence in Israeli settlements. Penn State’s reasons for canceling the exhibit ten days before it was set to open were that the exhibit “did not promote cultural diversity or opportunities for democratic dialogue.”   On April 17, 2007, Stulman—no longer a student at Penn State—filed a lawsuit against Penn State, President Graham Spanier, School of Visual Arts Director Charles Garoian, and Professor Robert Yarber. The complaint, posted at The Volokh Conspiracy, alleges that:

Defendants Penn State University, Garoian and Yarber, acting under the color of state law, deprived Plaintiff of his clearly-established rights to freedom of speech and expression secured by the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States by and through their cancellation and prohibition of the exhibition of Plaintiff’s artwork, the series of paintings called “Portraits of Terror,” in the Patterson Gallery based upon Plaintiff’s viewpoint as expressed in his paintings. The Patterson Gallery is a public forum in which students, such as Plaintiff, in the School of Visual Arts were encouraged to show their artwork, yet Plaintiff was prohibited from showing “Portraits of Terror” based upon its content and Plaintiff’s viewpoint as expressed in “Portraits of Terror.”

As this lawsuit proceeds, FIRE will keep readers abreast of all the latest developments.

Schools: Pennsylvania State University – University Park