Brian Chapman, Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, resigned this week after a less than a year-long tenure. The resignation came shortly after the UNCW Faculty Senate passed a motion admonishing the UNCW administration for not consulting with the Women’s Resource Center, Faculty Senate Steering Committee and other interested parties before requesting the censorship of a large part of the Century Project, an exhibition which visited the UNCW campus earlier this year.
The Project presents a chronological series of nude photographic portraits of diverse girls and women of many ages, shapes, sizes, and conditions, plus their personal statements about their bodies and experiences. A complaint from an associate professor in Oklahoma was sent to colleges where The Project was to appear, telling them to reject it. It claimed that The Century Project was pornographic and harmed women. At UNCW, the complaint went to the Chancellor and the Provost. After receiving the complaint, the Provost banned the photos of anyone under 18. UNCW became the only organization to censor the Project in its long history.
The NCAC sent a letter to Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo arguing that the decision to censor the show violated well-established principles of academic freedom and displayed disregard for the core mission of an educational institution. It also stated that the censorship of art was likely to damage UNCW’s reputation vastly more than permitting the display of a well-regarded art project.
The act of censorship was not stated as an official reason involved in Brian Chapman’s resignation, though it certainly overshadows his short tenure at UNCW.