University of Kansas: Art Installation Censored Following Politicians’ Demands

Category: Cases, Free Speech
Schools: University of Kansas

On July 3, 2018, nonprofit art organization Creative Time unveiled the latest installation in its national public art series titled “Pledges of Allegiance,” in cooperation with the University of Kansas (KU) and the Spencer Museum of Art outside The Commons at Spooner Hall. The July installation featured a flag designed by artist Josephine Meckseper, which according to the artist incorporated “a collage of an American flag and one of [her] dripped painting[s] which resembles the contours of the United States,” and was intended to refer to the divisive political climate of the country. On July 11, after some media commentators criticized the artwork, Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer and Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach demanded that KU remove the installation. Within hours, KU Chancellor Douglas Girod announced that KU was relocating the installation to the Spencer Museum because of “public safety concerns,” despite the fact that the single report of a threatening telephone call was described as “more harassing than threatening” by KU’s Deputy Police Chief. On July 16, FIRE, the National Coalition Against Censorship, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas wrote to KU, demanding that the university reaffirm its commitment to the First Amendment and restore the installation to its original location.