Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs at UNCW Resigns
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.
UNC Wilmington pulls nude photographs of minors from The Century Project
The University of North Carolina, Wilmington, has removed a substantial part of The Century Project created by photographer Frank Cordelle. After a complaint from an Oklahoma resident who claimed the project "is pornographic and harms women," UNCW requested Cordelle to remove the photographs portraying women under the age of 18. The Century Project "combines unconventionally stunning nude portraits" of women ages 0 to 100 "with highly personal written statements describing instances of rape, debilitating illness, disfiguring surgeries, distorted social expectations, as well as reflections of humor and joy" and is designed to "effect change in societal attitudes towards women’s bodies." The NCAC has urged Chancellor Rosemary DePaolo to allow the exhibit be shown in its entirety.
According to the AAUP's statement on Academic Freedom and Artistic Expression, "[a]cademic institutions are obliged to ensure that regulations and procedures do not impair freedom of expression or discourage creativity by subjecting work to tests of propriety or ideology." Censoring The Century Project demonstrates both a lack of understanding of the importance of preserving the integrity of an art project and an ideological intolerance that is inconsistent with the basic principles of academic discourse. Removal of the art is likely to damage UNCW's reputation, its legacy as its leader, vastly more than permitting display of a well-regarded art project.
UNCW is the only institution to censor The Century Project in its long history of travel around the country, though it currently meets resistance at William and Mary, where it is scheduled to return in March 2009 after its first showing in 2003.
» U. North Carolina-Wilmington faculty inspired to pass motion over censorship controversy
» Renowned nude photos banned by University of North Carolina at Wilmington
» The Century Project returns to W&M
» From Both Sides Now by Janet Mason Ellerby
Warning: I am writing this article as an administrator without first seeking permission and you are reading something you’re not supposed to know. I write because my narrative may not just be indicative of the shortsightedness of one university administrator. It may well be connected to a disturbing trend that markets universities as if they were for-profit corporations. When image control and raising money are the top priorities, the combination can lead to censorship and the curbing of academic freedom.