Forty Whacks

ASU's museum was forced to censor its political art show, but did its director have to bend over?

Arizona State University President Michael Crow's acting more like Dean Vernon Wormer all the time.

Sighing and shaking his head like the Animal House character at the antics of his campus charges, I can almost hear him bellowing: "Looks like somebody forgot that there's a ban on alcoholic beverages! You've bought it this time, buster! No more fun of any kind!"

New Times recently published a cover story about Crow's war against ASU's fraternities and drinking on campus ("Greek Weak," September 23). Unlike the countless pitched battles the movie's Dean Wormer lost against Delta House, Crow's winning his.

ASU sold artistic integrity down the river to appear nonpartisan before the presidential debate.
Joe Forkan
ASU sold artistic integrity down the river to appear nonpartisan before the presidential debate.

And Crow isn't stopping at pouring cold brewski on the frat boys' efforts to express themselves.

His administration's now enforcing a ban on signs (read: political posters) in campus windows just in time for the third presidential debate at Gammage Auditorium on October 13.

That's right, Crow's not only killing the kegger tradition of wild fraternity parties, his office is prohibiting college students -- once the very essence of the protest movement in this country -- from expressing their views on the presidential race. Not under his roof!

Seems decorations of any kind in campus windows have been prohibited by ASU for years, but the ban is rarely enforced. The Crow administration has cracked down on students expressing themselves via their dorm-room windows in just the last few months.

How convenient. Apparently, too many John Kerry signs might pop up in those windows, and Republicans might see them -- the theory being that college students are mostly lefties, and wouldn't it be unfair for the campus to seem partisan on the eve of the big debate?

And wouldn't it be unfair if Republicans had to see a passel of rude-ass demonstrators, as well?

See, protesters in all likelihood would be expressing their outrage over the war in Iraq and at the president who put us there. This would disrupt the nonpartisanship of the sacred debate, and nobody wants to put President Bush through that. As Duhbya dumbly drummed into everybody's head during the first debate, he's had to do lots of "hard work" with this Iraq thing. So placard-carrying '60s-style protesters would be the last thing he'd want to deal with.

Alakazam, a zone for protesters -- nicely labeled the "Speakers' Corner" -- has been set up on campus well away from Gammage.

It's all so controlled. You can bet that Michael Crow will do everything possible to keep anything controversial from happening on his debate watch.

Jerry Rubin's turning over in his grave.

This isn't to say that our very own Dean Wormer hasn't had his patience tried by Blutarskys, Otters and Flounders of a different stripe on his orderly desert campus.

Yeah, he's had to deal harshly with his own Delta House -- the ASU Art Museum.

Just when things seemed to be going swimmingly -- the glorious debate was on its way to Tempe and preparations for it were on schedule -- Crow got word that the girls and boys at the museum were putting on an exhibition in conjunction with the big event featuring political art from around the country.

Which would've been fine -- except that nearly every piece those rapscallion curators were securing for the "Democracy in America" exhibition was anti-Dubya, anti-war. You know, the kind of stuff that could make the university seem partisan.

The kind of stuff that could create the kind of molehill that Republicans in powerful places could make a mountain over.

This was not Michael Crow's beautiful life.

Then came a story on the museum's plans for the exhibition ("Heil to the Chief," July 1) by New Times staff writer Joe Watson (who later went on to do the aforementioned fraternities piece criticizing Crow as the ultimate crackdown artist of university presidents). The show's proposed lineup of artists was based on a press release provided by John Spiak, the museum's curator.

To say the shit hit the fan after Watson's article -- the first of two he wrote on the exhibition -- would be putting it mildly.

Crow wanted answers. In a July 7 e-mail to Milton Glick, ASU's executive vice president and provost, and Robert Wills, dean of the university's Herberger College of Fine Arts, he wrote, "We heard about potential concerns regarding the exhibit from the team managing the debates."

He went on, "On whose authority was an exhibit linked to the debates pursued?" Insisting on seeing a story board for the exhibition, he groused, "I don't like surprises that seem to be potentially negative to the overall image of fairness and impartiality that we must take as [an] institution."

The day before, Wills had written an e-mail to College of Fine Arts public information officer Stacey Shaw, museum director Marilyn Zeitlin, and Spiak, saying, "I can assure you -- from concerned legislators to university administrative folk -- there is the highest level of concern [about the exhibition] that I have ever seen in forty years of dealing with controversy."

Wills added, "This [should be] an exhibition about Democracy in America. It is not an exhibition about what artists think of the president."

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