(Reprinted from the April 9 issue of The Mississippian, student newspaper of the University of Mississippi.)
Last week five paintings were taken down from an art exhibit in University Gallery after some discussion between the administration and the artist, Mr. Ray Kerciu, assistant professor of art at Ole Miss. The paintings had been hanging for five days before they were removed.
At first the incident gave the appearance of a violation of academic freedom to some people. For the artist's brush would be synonomous with the reporter's pen or typewriter; therefore the censorship seemed unjust--so unjust that several art students protested with signs saying: "Unfair; Ours is a visual language; We protest censorship; Freedom of expression; and Freedom?" As one onlooker remarked, "This proves that Ole Miss can have demonstrations without rioting."
However, as several photography students attempted to take pictures of the picketers for class assignments, they were told that they could not take photographs unless they had permission from the University. Yet no attempt was made to keep a local Citizens Council member from taking pictures of the paintings when they hung in the University Gallery. Although University officials have denied that any formal protests about the painting were made with the administration, one might perhaps be led to believe that the Citizen's Council dictated the policies of the University.
Late yesterday a complaint was filed against the artist claiming that Kerciu had desecrated the flag of the Confederacy, and had used obscenity in his paintings.
Which brings to question the basic reasons or inspiration for the paintings. The people who have so loudly protested the work of the artist were the ones who yelled the "obscenities" or distributed the material inscribed with some of the words on the painting to which the Confederates so greatly object. If anything is distasteful to certain groups within the state, requests have been made for its removal whether this unfavorable object be a person, painting, or written article. Should history and art conform to the wishes of these people simply because they do not approve?
The claim that the professor desecrated the Confederate flag is somewhat ambiguous. The paintings were merely the impression that he had received about the state this fall. If anyone violated the sanctity of the flag of the Confederacy, a nation which no longer exists except in the minds of men, the villains were those who rioted on the night of September 30. For on that night, all principles for which fair and genteel Southerners stood were sacrificed in a bloody battle over the admission of a Negro to the University of Mississippi.
Citizens of the United States are permitted to enjoy freedom of expression. Is not art an expression of what a man sees? Should not the artist have the same right to make known his personal feelings concerning an issue with pictures, as the writer can express himself with words.
Or will the University of Mississippi suppress this freedom of expression because it does not adhere to the principles of certain groups? Is Ole Miss truly a University? SIDNA BROWER, Editor