‘Needlessly childproofing’ campus?
It graphically depicts President Donald Trump performing oral sex and penetrating and being penetrated sexually, both one-on-one and in orgies.
Polk State College declined to show this artwork by a part-time faculty member – not because it’s plainly pornographic, but because it’s “too controversial.”
The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education and National Coalition Against Censorship are pressuring the public college in Florida to reconsider the submission by Serhat Tanyolacar for a faculty exhibition scheduled to start last week.
As a taxpayer-funded institution subject to the First Amendment, Polk State must reassess “Death of Innocence” in a viewpoint-neutral manner, they said.
Tanyolacar’s artwork has a history of being removed. He’s the artist behind the Ku Klux Klan effigy that briefly set off fears of a KKK invasion at the University of Iowa in 2014, when he was a visiting professor there.
He intended the artwork (cropped, below) to convey “moral corruption and moral dichotomy.” In a letter to Polk State President Angela Garcia Falconetti dated Feb. 14, FIRE and NCAC said the artwork includes images of “T.S. Eliot and his wife Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot, Pablo Neruda and his wife Matilde Urrutia, Woody Guthrie, Jack Kerouac, and Elizabeth Bishop,” juxtaposed with political figures engaged in sex acts. (Trump appears to be performing sex acts on his doppelganger in some depictions.)
Program Coordinator Nancy Lozell hinted at the pornographic nature of the work without explicitly saying so when she turned down Tanyolacar:
Polk State College offers classes and volunteer opportunities to our collegiate charter high schools and other high schools in Polk county and we feel that that particular piece would be too controversial to display at this time.
She later told him that the gallery committee evaluates submissions by criteria that include “the appropriateness of the piece,” without giving a more specific definition.
FIRE and NCAC cited a Supreme Court ruling against the University of Missouri for expelling a student based on his distribution of a “cartoon depiction of the Statue of Liberty and Goddess of Justice being sexually assaulted by police officers.”
They also said Supreme Court precedent doesn’t give “government actors” like Polk State the “free-floating power to restrict the ideas to which children may be exposed.”
Regarding Polk State’s reference to high school students coming to campus, the letter didn’t cite any legal precedent. But it noted that such students have been exposed to public discussions about politicians’ sex lives in graphic details for their entire lives, from President Bill Clinton’s liaisons with Monica Lewinsky, to Donald Trump’s recorded remarks from 2005 about grabbing women by their genitals, and now Trump’s alleged affair with a porn star in 2006.
Sarah McLaughlin, senior program officer at FIRE, accused the public college of “needlessly childproofing” the campus and “underestimating [high school students’] ability to cope with contentious or provocative artwork.”
IMAGES: Evan El-Amin/Shutterstock, Serhat Tanyolacar