‘Firefly’ Poster Censorship Update

October 13, 2011

The University of Wisconsin–Stout in Menomonie, Wisconsin, which confiscated two posters that Professor James Miller had posted outside his office door last month, has finally returned the posters to him.

In case you missed it, Miller was reported to the "threat assessment team" and threatened with criminal charges because of the two satirical postings. One of them depicted actor Nathan Fillion’s character in the television series Firefly and a quotation from the character, and the other stated, "Warning: Fascism." Click on the links in the first paragraph to see what the folks at UW-Stout supposedly thought was so dangerous.

After a huge public outcry and UW-Stout’s initial attempts to defend its totally indefensible and absurd actions, the university backed down and promised to hold free speech forums on campus. The first one is scheduled for today. Here’s the announcement:

The "Firefly" poster incident at Stout became local, national even international news. At play were complex, conflicting values of freedom of expression and speech and a campus commitment to safety and inclusion.

To help the campus and Menomonie community share thoughts and to understand this incident and the larger issues of academic freedom in a campus environment, the Center for Applied Ethics will host a series of public discussions and lectures. The goal of the series is to move the conversation in a positive and healthy direction for the benefit of the campus community.The first panel will be held from 4:45-5:45 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 13, in room 112 of Jarvis Hall Science Wing and will include Mary McManus, Ally Center for Civil Rights and Civic Responsibility; Tim Shiell, philosophy; and Lakayana Drury, Stout Student Association.

The discussion is open to the campus and local community. Snacks and beverages will be served.

Actually, the issues involved in the censorship of the posters are not complex, at least not for reasonably normal people who can read, like thousands of Firefly fans and dozens of journalists. "Inclusion" had nothing to do with it, and "safety" was easily proved to be an absurd consideration. UW-Stout administrators should stop pretending that this case was ever about reasonable people making reasonable decisions; it wasn’t.

We’ll keep you updated on what happens next.

Schools:  University of Wisconsin – Stout

Cases:  University of Wisconsin – Stout: Censorship, Referral to Threat Assessment Team, and Threat of Criminal Charges after Professor Puts Posters Outside Office Door