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BDS at UWGB

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Art students at University of Wisconsin-Green Bay are outraged that they won’t be able to display a degraded piece of “art” that shows a pistol pointed at George Bush’s head: UWGB students answer chancellor’s stamp act.

A decision to pull a piece of art from a University of Wisconsin-Green Bay exhibit has spurred activism on the part of students and discussion about First Amendment issues across the campus and in the community.

The art in question is a sheet of mock postage stamps by artist Al Brandtner showing President Bush with a gun pointed at his head, captioned “Patriot Act.” Some say it advocates assassination. Others say it’s free expression.

UWGB Chancellor Bruce Shepard says it’s not appropriate for the school’s gallery. Shepard consulted with other chancellors in the UW System, the school’s legal counsel and System President Kevin Reilly before stopping the piece from being hung in the exhibit “Axis of Evil: The Secret History of Sin” in the Lawton Gallery.

“This is an exhibit that UWGB sponsors, and it’s done with taxpayers’ money. When we do this, we get to decide what we show and what types of messages we want to send out,” Shepard said. “I don’t want the reputation of UWGB to represent advocacy of assassination.”

Students responded by wearing t-shirts featuring the lovely image, and whining about “censorship” in complete ignorance of the word’s meaning.

About 30 students, rallied by art and photography major Erica Millspaugh, protested outside the gallery during an opening reception Thursday night.

“For us to not do anything … would just be completely apathetic and not right, and we want people to know that we do care,” said Millstaugh, a Green Bay Southwest High School graduate who transferred to UWGB from UW-Stout last year. “We want people to know that we’re disappointed and we’re upset about it.”

The decision raises free speech issues, said Millstaugh, who obtained permission from Brandtner to use the image and prepared T-shirts and brochures for Thursday’s protest of the school’s decision.

“(Thursday), ironically, is National Constitution Day, so we as art students feel that it’s irrelevant whether we support the actual image or the idea behind it. … We just feel that any art is valid and the Constitution and the First Amendment of the Constitution give us the freedom of speech and freedom of expression.”

Shepard said the decision was not a form of censorship.

“It would be censorship if we told students that they couldn’t wear T-shirts with this picture on it. But because it’s in the gallery and paid for with taxpayers’ money, we can decide what hangs there,” he said. “The piece won’t be hung up. Any reference to the piece that’s in the gallery is left up to the gallery director.”

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