Polk State College: Professor’s Provocative Political Artwork Barred from Faculty Art Exhibition


Polk State College

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Case Overview


In early January 2018, Polk State College requested that all faculty members from its arts program submit artwork for an exhibition to be held the next month. Part-time faculty member Serhat Tanyolacar submitted his piece, “Death of Innocence,” which juxtaposed images of several well-known poets and writers with a number of graphic iterations of President Donald Trump and other political figures engaging in sexual activity. On February 6, Program Coordinator Nancy Lozell informed Tanyolacar that his submitted artwork would be “too controversial to display at this time” because high school students who take classes at Polk State’s campus might see it. FIRE and the National Coalition Against Censorship sent a letter on February 14 warning Polk State against restricting the display of artwork deemed “too controversial,” and asked the college to reassess Tanyolacar’s artwork in a viewpoint-neutral manner. Polk State failed to respond to FIRE’s letter, but records released by the college in response to a public records request showed that it sought law enforcement to review Tanyolacar’s artwork.