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Antisemitism at Penn State

First take a moment –  and write the good Professor a note. Don’t be rude. Don’t threaten. Be firm and respectful and forthright. And pass this on to as many people as possible.

Do not let this man have a moment’s peace. My letter:

Dear Mr. Garoian,
   There are moments in life when one is so close to a situation they cannot see the forest for the trees. This, I fear, is the cause of your recent blindness.
   As a leader, role model and educator your actions are a template for our children. I think you have done a great disservice to yourself, your fine institution and the children you serve by canceling the young Master Shulman’s exhibit "Portraits of Terror."
   It would be one thing, if Mr. Shulman was the murderer ( ie  John Wayne Gacy). But Shulman’s retelling of history in his art is a noble, admirable undertaking. Why would an educator and role model attempt to stifle or shut down an aspiring artist?
    Please step back, take a deep breath and consider the dastardly path you have chosen. Moral compass notwithstanding, this is a bad decision. I implore you to please reconsider.
Pamela Geller Oshry

Charles Garoian( E-mail: Professor and Director of the School of Visual Arts.

Office: 814.865.0444   Fax: 814.865.1158


For Penn State student Josh Stulman, years of hard work ended in disappointment yesterday when the university cancelled his upcoming art exhibit for violation of Penn State’s policies on nondiscrimination, harassment and hate.

Three days before his 10-piece exhibit — Portraits of Terror — was scheduled to open at the Patterson Building, Stulman (senior-painting and anthropology) received an e-mail message from the School ofJosh_stulman Visual Arts that said his exhibit on images of terrorism "did not promote cultural diversity" or "opportunities for democratic dialogue" and the display would be cancelled.

The exhibit, Stulman said, which is based mainly on the conflict in Palestinian territories, raises questions concerning the destruction of Jewish religious shrines, anti-Semitic propaganda and cartoons in Palestinian newspapers, the disregard for rules of engagement and treatment of prisoners, and the indoctrination of youth into terrorist acts.

"I’m being censored and the reason for censoring me doesn’t make sense," Stulman said.

Charles Garoian, professor and director of the School of Visual Arts, said Stulman’s controversial images did not mesh with the university’s educational mission.

How about killing babies in pizzerias? Does that mesh with the university’s mission, tool?

The decision to cancel the exhibit came after reviewing Penn State’s Policy AD42: Statement on Nondiscrimination and Harassment and Penn State’s Zero Tolerance Policy for Hate, he wrote.

Garoian could not be reached by The Daily Collegian for further comment by press time yesterday.

"We always encourage those who are offended by free speech to use their own constitutional right to free speech to make their concerns known," Mahon wrote. "This is an educational institution and people should embrace opportunities to inform one another and the public. … We don’t have a right to hide art."

Stulman said the exhibit, which is sponsored by Penn State Hillel, aims to create awareness on campus about the senselessness of terrorism and drew inspiration from images that have appeared in the public through newspapers and television.

He said he was shocked at the university’s decision to cancel the exhibit and that he has tried to meet with Garoian on numerous occasions to discuss his artwork.

"It’s not about hate. I don’t hate Muslims. This is not about Islam," Stulman said. "This is about terrorism impacting the Palestinian way of life and Israel way of life."

Stulman said advertisements for the event were defaced in the Patterson and School of Visual Arts buildings, one of which had a large swastika on it.

Stulman, who is Jewish, said he felt threatened and abused by the Nazi symbol and is concerned for his artwork and his personal well-being.

"We don’t have a political agenda except to support the voice of Jewish students," he said.

Photo: Josh Stulman examines his artwork, previously scheduled for an art exhibit that was canceled by Penn State. The painting to the right, by Stulman, is titled “Ramallah.”

UPDATE April 26: Best letter I’ve read. hat tip Naomi Ragen

Dear Professor Garoian,

May I address you as a fellow academic, albeit one working in the United Kingdom, whose original field is Arabic, Persian and Islamic Studies? The reason for my writing is that I have just learned of your decision to ban an exhibition of art centred around Palestinian terrorism, the work of a Penn State student called Josh Stulman.

I understand that your decision to cancel Mr Stulman’s exhibit was made on the grounds that it ‘did not promote cultural diversity’ or ‘opportunities for democratic dialogue’. This seems perfectly bizarre to me. I believe that the exhibition was concerned with the social and cultural impact of Palestinian terrorism on two societies, Palestinian and Israeli. In what way would that not promote ‘cultural diversity’? Israel, which is daily threatened and harmed by that terrorism is – and I say this on the basis of close knowledge of the situation – is one of the most racially, religiously, and culturally diverse nations in the world, and certain many times more diverse in all these respects than any of its neighbours for a long way round. To convey the nature of a singularly vicious form of hatred (both racially and religiously ‘justified’) that has corrupted Palestinian culture to a frightening degree and has damaged one of the world’s most open and vibrant societies seems to me a very legitimate thing.

But I also have to ask why on earth a work of art, however didactic in intent, has to conform to a rigid doctrine that it should ‘promote cultural diversity’. That sort of ruling sounds like something from a totalitarian system like China under Mao or Russia under Stalin, or, indeed, countries like Saudi Arabia or Iran today which, in case you have not noticed, not only hate Israel and Jews, but spend a lot of money to promote terrorism against her.

You say the exhibit would not provide ‘opportunities for democratic dialogue’. First, how do you know whether this would be the case or not? Since the exhibition was to take place on university grounds, I have to assume that the normal rules of open dialogue would have applied. Was Mr Stulman in some way preventing other students or staff from debating the merits of his work, from holding meetings on campus, say, or from writing online comments, or anything else? Since I assume he was not doing this, it seems to me that your action in banning the exhibit is an abuse of academic standards. The academy, as you well know, is a place in which ideas are put forward and – sometimes strongly – debated and disagreed with. Or does Penn State now allow one side of an argument to be put forward? If so, I must tell the more opinionated of my students to enrol there.

Since you are in favour of cultural diversity, I take it you also approve of diversity of argument. American campuses (much more than ours in the UK) are repeatedly venues for anti-Israel speakers, meetings, and exhibits. Why, then, should one student exhibiting images about Palestinian terror rock the boat so much?

If this had been a Muslim/Arab/Iranian student who wanted to put up an exhibition on the evils of the ‘Zionist entity’, would you, I wonder, have banned the event?

I will ask you now to do some hard thinking. Reflect on the meaning of the academy, the open exchange of opinions, and the profound significance of Palestinian terrorism as a subject for artistic expression. If you disagree with Mr Stulman’s take on the matter, please just argue with him. Do not, at the risk of losing all credibility and honour as a university teacher, censor him. You are living in America, a country that has, as one of its many claims to fame, rights to free expression that are enshrined in the First Amendment. Please confirm me in my opinion that Americans still live up to the high standards imposed by their remarkable Constitution. We don’t have one over here: you have that privilege. Please honour it.

Yours sincerely,
Dr. Denis MacEoin University of Newcastle upon Tyne

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