Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Inside the UNCW Century Project Controversy

English professor Janet Mason Ellerby recounts her decision to bring Frank Cordelle's The Century Project to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and the shocking censorship of the photographs by a few administrators.
Rather than consult with me, or Frank Cordelle, or with our resident photography professor, who happens to specialize in the nude, or with other women’s studies faculty, or with our journalism and art history professors, or with any faculty for that matter, our chancellor and provost turned instead to fellow administrators, who raised questions about showing images of minors.

Based mostly on these misconceptions, which either Frank Cordelle or I could easily have easily dispelled, a handful of administrators let their own perceptions about the impact a controversy might have on the university’s image (i.e., brand) prevail. If asked, I could have referred them to Frank’s Web site and his book, Bodies and Souls: The Century Project.

He makes it very clear that he received parental consents for all the photos of minors and that he remains willing to remove any photos if asked. Rather than cross the divide between administration and faculty to discuss the ethical ramifications of censoring an art exhibit, a privy chamber of six ruled that the images of the girls under 18 were verboten. Their decision was issued as an ultimatum — either censor the project or cancel.

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