[Welcome Instapundit readers! If you have not been following this story and want some further background information, you can read my previous posts on the subject here. Ironically, Professor Garoian, responsible for censorship in this incident, previously wrote a series of articles condemning censorship of the arts, including at Penn State!]
A very strong statement by the director of the Penn State Hillel, Tuvia Abramson:
Following eight days of misinformation by the School of Visual Arts and the Penn State University spokesman, which resulted in misleading information, I have decided today to issue an official statement as the executive director of Penn State Hillel.
The university is an open market for ideas, creativity, and sometimes debates. Penn State Hillel is a place where Jewish students create, learn debate, grow, and above all feel comfortable to be a Jew. The role of the Hillel Foundation on campus is to educate the community about Judaism, to maintain a high profile so in a case like Joshua Stulman's they will know that there is an organization that supports the students.
The Hillel Foundation, as stated in its charter, must represent the diversity of opinion (religious, cultural, and political) which are found in any Jewish community around the world. Hillel has no political agenda, and as I write this letter today, I have not even seen all of the pictures for Joshua's exhibit.
In my 23 years in Hillel on three different campuses, I have not seen an act so blatant as the act of censorship, discrimination, and anti-Semitism like the one which applies to Joshua Stulman [editor's note: the charge of anti-Semitism seems a bit extreme here, but apparently the Hillel director has been subjected to a flurry of anti-Semitic calls and threats, so you can understand his senstivity to the blame that was put on Hillel].
This was not a single act. This was systematic abuse and intimidation which was applied by the School of Visual Arts to coerce the student and force him to cancel his art exhibition all because of its political content.
The message of Joshua's exhibit was this: When you preach hate, teach hate, and indoctrinate children with hate, you will have terror. When you use the airways and the political system to reinforce hate, you create a mechanism by which these children will learn how and when to destroy innocent life.
This message was blocked by the director of the School of Visual Arts and its faculty without discussion or review of most of the artwork with the student Joshua Stulman. The director issued a statement canceling the exhibit stating the cancellation was based on Penn State's Policy AD42 about Zero Tolerance for Hate and that Joshua's work did not promote a democratic dialogue or cultural diversity.
The second reason stated for canceling the exhibit was due to the sponsorship of Hillel for the reception on opening night.
Both of these statements were false, misleading, and were never discussed prior to receiving the letter of cancellation. They were fake excuses to find justification to shut up the exhibit because of its political content, which did not go along with the political opinion or agenda of Professor Charles Garoian and art lecturer and advisor Robert Yarber.
The mistake was done by the School of Visual Arts, who added insult to injury when Professor Garoian offered to Joshua on Friday night, the Jewish Sabbath, that he could put up his exhibit the next day if Joshua would drop the Hillel sponsorship. Joshua refused to accept the offer of removing Hillel because doing so would validate their denial of applying censorship to the artwork.
All the attempts to set the record straight and to have the School of Visual Arts issue an apology to Hillel for falsely implicating the Foundation. In February, Hillel sponsored an exhibit by the same artist in the same gallery with no issues.
An [RTF] attachment to this e-mail details six weeks worth of correspondence related to this incident.
The Hillel Foundation is thankful to [Penn State President] Graham Spanier who issued a statement against censorship. The Foundation also thanks Stephen MacCarthy for understanding the complexity and his tireless work to resolve this unacceptable situation.
On April 27 Johsua received an email from Professor Garoian, which was to represent an apology, but rather it was just a letter full of excuses.
Nowhere in his e-mail was an apology to Hillel for falsely using its name as an excuse to cancel the exhibit, nor was there a specific apology to Joshua in regard to using the Hate Code as a false excuse to cancel the exhibit.
As of today no public apology to anyone has been issued to the media. Additionally the statement from the university spokesman has not been modified. On the contrary, on April 29 Fox News broadcasted the university spokesman William Mahon as saying that it was only the responsibility of one professor.
The Hillel Foundation feels that the School of Visual Arts needs to come clean. It has given a black eye to the college of Arts and Architecture. It has given a black eye to the entire university, it mislead the media, faculty, staff, and above all it projected the university as an academic center where freedom of expression, academic freedom and freedom of speech is denied because of political correctness.
Is this the image that Penn State would like to promote? I doubt it. The mistake was done by the School of Visual Arts. The university needs to find a way to right the wrong. An investigation is necessary of the faculty of the School of Visual Arts, administration, and anyone else at this university who may have been involved in this act of cancellation and the climate of discrimination.
Attached with this email is a more detailed chronology of events, which I have reprinted "beneath the fold" for those who are interested.
Detailed account of exhibit cancellation from Penn State Hillel
By Tuvia Abramson, Penn State Hillel Executive Director, May 1, 2006
Following the articles in various newspapers and the onslaught of emails from across the country and around the world and following conflicting information, misinformation and smoke-screens, I have decided today to document the facts in regard to Joshua Stulman’s exhibit cancellation.
Should you need to verify the facts mentioned below, a copy of the specific emails supporting the facts and the dates can be sent to you upon request.
In February 06, the Hillel Foundation sponsored a reception and some PR costs (approximately $100) for the exhibit called “Hodgepodge” by Joshua Stulman. Hillel’s name appeared as a sponsor of this exhibit. This exhibit was presented without incident or conflict due to the sponsorship.
It is Hillel’s mission to support Jewish activity on campus, whether it is educational, religious, cultural, etc. Hillel does not pass judgment on content or on religious preference or on political preference, but embraces diversity of expression which also reflects the diversity of the Jewish student body on the Penn State campus, (this consists of approximately 4,000 students).
Hillel understands that Jewish students come from different backgrounds, traditions, political views, and they may have different opinions on the struggle of Israel’s existence. Open dialogue and expression is not only encouraged but also embraced.
After the opening of Joshua’s first exhibit, he approached me with a request for Hillel to sponsor a second exhibit at the same gallery in April 06. I was very happy to see that Joshua was moving ahead in a new artistic field, because I have known him for five years as a Jewish student leader and a cantor for Hillel. I immediately agreed on behalf of Hillel to sponsor the opening of the second exhibit. On March 1, 2006, Charles Garoian, Director and Professor at the School of Visual Arts, sent an email to Joshua questioning the nature of his exhibit and emphasized that he be prepared. This email had political bias in it and emphasized the possible controversy rather than speaking of the quality of work itself. Joshua immediately responded to this email and welcomed the professor’s interest. He understood the concern and informed the professor about the process and the classes that he took in preparation for this exhibit during both previous year and this year. In the same email Joshua informed Professor Garoian that Penn State Hillel would be sponsoring the opening and that Tuvia Abramson the Executive Director of Hillel would be more than willing to speak with him about some of the pieces that he had seen in regard to Professor Garoian’s concerns.
Hillel’s phone number was given to the professor at this point. The third email of March 1, 2006 was sent from Charles Garoian to Joshua, thanking him for his quick response and telling him that Charles’ assistant Glenda would be contacting Joshua soon to schedule a meeting.
On April 11, 2006 Tuvia Abramson and Joshua Stulman received a combined email from the professor requesting a meeting to discuss the “provocative images that could become controversial”. Charles Garoian requested a meeting to discuss the content so he can speak about it intelligently. Even this email was tainted with political overtones. In the same email, Charles Garoian suggested that Joshua, “with possible assistance from his professors, you, Tuvia, and me, prepare a press release, which would at least get well conceived information out about the exhibition to prevent it from being distorted by reporters who are not familiar with socio/political art nor Joshua’s intention to create educational dialogue.”
Charles emphasized that he looked forward to meeting with Tuvia and Joshua to discuss the exhibition before the opening on April 23, 2006.
A few emails followed on April 11, 2006, some between Charles and Tuvia in connection with the content of the exhibit and the timeframe for the meeting to take place. In one of the emails, Tuvia tried to make Charles understand that as far as he knows the pictures were not provocative, but were based on images found in pictures that were published in different public media venues.
Purposely, to avoid any misunderstanding or controversy, Tuvia gave Charles his cell phone number and his home phone number, due to the fact the Hillel office would be closed for Passover the following day and a few days the following week.
On Tuesday April 11, 2006, Joshua also responded to the email with a willingness to meet with Charles. On Wednesday April 12th, Tuvia Abramson sent an email to Professor Garoian, explaining that it was Passover eve, and in spite of the holiday, the three of them (or maybe four with addition of Professor Yarber, Joshua’s Art teacher and advisor) will meet anytime during the last two days of Passover. Tuvia emphasized that because of the holiday the Hillel office would be closed, but he would be willing to meet any time on April 19 or 20 to create a dialogue.
Again, Tuvia resubmitted to Charles his cell phone number and home phone number. Joshua also indicated that he would be available during the afternoon of those two days.
On Passover, April 13th, 2006, Joshua received an email indicating that the meeting would take place on Thursday April 20th at 4:00 to discuss the exhibition. Charles indicated in the email that he would copy Tuvia so that he, too, could join them as well if he was so inclined.
On Monday April 17, 2006 Charles sent an email to Joshua, again labeling the subject line “potential controversy” and confirming that a meeting would take place at 4:00pm with the idea of reviewing the paintings and the artist’s statement.
On Tuesday April 18 at 6:25pm, Charles sent a combined email to Tuvia and Joshua with a carbon copy to Dean Durst, the Dean of the College of Arts and Architecture, indicating that he was looking forward to meeting with them on Thursday April 20th at 4:00pm in his office. To the surprise of Joshua and Tuvia, it was no longer a meeting of 3 or 4 people as planned before, but Charles Garoian took it upon himself to invite the following people: Steve MacCarthy, the Vice President of Public Information, Tom Poole, Vice President of Educational Equity in Old Main, members of the painting faculty, plus Mohammed Atiyat, the President of Islamic Student Association and his friend Mansoor Aliedi.
The next day, Wednesday April 19th, Tuvia was driving back from Toronto to attend the meeting when he received a phone call from Joshua informing him about the increased number of participants. No change in agenda or explanation was given to explain the drastic increase and the number of participants. It was very surprising to Joshua and Tuvia that instead of 4 people meeting to discuss the art and the artist’s statement, all of a sudden the meeting took on political overtones as indicated by the additional participants who were now added to the meeting.
Tuvia was traveling and had no access to his email, therefore he asked Joshua to respond to Charles with a combined email from both of them, indicating the surprise and the dismay that was felt about the imposed change of venue without discussing it prior to the email. Because of the Passover holiday, Tuvia and Joshua asked that the meeting be changed to Friday so that they too could invite other Jewish representatives, i.e.: Jewish faculty, students and board members. This email was sent in the evening; but before the email was even received, Charles Garoian sent an email to all the participants of the meeting with the subject: CANCELLATION. As quoted from Charles’ email “After reviewing the policy and guidelines of the Patterson Gallery in the School of Visual Arts, Penn State’s policy AD42: Statement on Nondiscrimination and Harassment and Penn State’s Zero tolerance policy for hate, I have decided to cancel Joshua Stulman’s exhibition scheduled for April 23rd through 29th 2006 in the Patterson Gallery”.
Again, I reiterate that this cancellation was done before any meeting was held with Joshua, Tuvia, and Professor Garoian. The email also indicated that Joshua’s artwork does not promote the School of Visual Arts’ cultural diversity or assurance of opportunities for democratic dialogues within the context of its classrooms and its exhibition spaces.
To our surprise in spite of knowing since March 1, 2006 that Hillel was sponsoring the reception, and in spite of numerous emails, many of them to Tuvia and Joshua together, inviting Hillel to participate in preparing background information and press releases with the School of Visual Arts, Charles found some guidelines, somewhere, which we have NEVER seen, and indicated that Hillel’s sponsorship was the second reason for the cancellation, (notwithstanding that Joshua’s first exhibit was Hillel-sponsored without ANY question).
On the morning of Thursday April 20th, Charles arbitrarily sent an email to all the participants canceling the meeting.
That same day the media was notified of the cancellation. What followed was a circus of smokescreens, fake explanations, and half-truths on the part of the School of Visual Arts, which eventually culminated in a statement sent from Garoian to Joshua that his exhibit was ONLY cancelled because of Hillel’s sponsorship, but Joshua COULD have his exhibit if he dropped Hillel’s sponsorship
Tuvia was on his way to Friday night services at Hillel. Upon Tuvia’s request the CDT sent a copy of the email to Tuvia. As of today, Tuvia never received that email from Professor Garoian. The audacity of this email is beyond words. Hillel was a participant in Joshua’s first exhibit and was specifically asked by Joshua to participate in the preparation for the second exhibit.
One might wonder why there was a need for a meeting of such size and why the issue of content was mentioned in the cancellation notice. It is also important to notice that Joshua never received an individual cancellation notice from Charles with a clear explanation to the nature of the “hate crime policy” or the guidelines of the Hillel participation issue.
Upon reading the email, Tuvia offered to Joshua to remove Hillel’s sponsorship, which Joshua immediately rejected and called the email and insult pathetic. Tuvia called the email morally repugnant.
During this week misleading information kept coming from the university’s spokesman. Charles Garoian disappeared and refused to answer any questions or phone calls from the media or from anyone else.
This campaign of distorted truth was the reason why the Hillel Foundation and Joshua Stulman both requested an apology from the university administration and demanded that Joshua’s exhibit be allowed to take place in the fall with the full sponsorship of Hillel.
A promise was issued that the exhibit will be shown in the fall with Hillel sponsorship. The apology from Charles Goroian was received only by Joshua and forwarded to Tuvia Abramson. This apology did not speak about using zero tolerance for hate as its reason for cancellation. It did not apologize for using Hillel as a scapegoat to cover the wrongs that were done to Joshua Stulman.
Another apology was issued by the Dean of the College of Art and Architecture with an offer for Joshua to exhibit his work was reiterated. This email did not include a mention of the hate policy or the sponsorship of Hillel Foundation as well.
As of April 28, as seen on Fox news, the university spokesman still insisted that it was only one professor’s decision