An art instructor at the University of Massachusetts agreed to exhibit his paintings on a wall of a corridor in the Student Union occasionally used to display art. The exhibition was controversial because it included detailed nudes, and university administrators had the paintings removed before the end of the scheduled exhibit.
The court ruled that there was essentially a captive audience, whose privacy the university could protect, even where there was no legal obscenity. The university was entitled to consider the primary use of the corridor as a passageway for the public, including children, in its conclusion that, even without having received complaints, the paintings were inappropriate for that use. The court noted that freedom of speech must also recognize the freedom not to listen.
This case is significant because of its use of “captive audience” in its analysis before the use of this doctrine was common.
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