It is an unfortunate and tedious thing at this point in our history to have raised a voice against those who limit serious human expression. It is most unfortunate and grievous when those who are putting into place a potentially suppressive instrument are members of the board of trustees of a public institution of higher learning. I read with dismay that the board of trustees of Kishwaukee College has voted to establish a “performance and display procedure manual” that assigns to a committee the role of protector of our sensibilities. This committee, it seems, will have the prerogative of reviewing material to be exhibited or performed, and may, if it chooses, ban the works. Acting in the name of a misguided sense of duty they have aborted a larger and more important responsibility.

In the 1940’s the American Association of University Professors established a statement defining academic freedom. This has become the standard of the free world’s academic communities. This document has defined and protected an important freedom, and it is, in part, this freedom in the classroom and the resulting free transfer of knowledge, that has made our society great.

There is, now, a companion document that defines the protection required for artistic freedom. It is clear that any institution that puts into place any instrument that will interfere with faculty and student freedom in the visual and performing arts places itself in danger of censure.

It is the special responsibility of public institutions of higher learning to create an open and accessible venue for the expression of the human spirit. It is not the responsibility of such institutions to engage in suppressive manipulations that will ensure the comfort of the public. Indeed, knowledge itself, may produce a great deal of discomfort. The idea of evolution may precipitate discomfort in many.

As a people, we seem to have made a profound commitment to knowledge. We believe that freedom is essential in the judgment of facts. We seem prepared to tolerate whatever discomfort may be caused by the creation and presentation of knowledge. This is one of the special roles and obligations of colleges and universities. Institutions of higher learning are not comfort stations, nor were they ever meant to be.

When it comes to the free and unfettered expressions that may emanate from the human spirit, we, as a people, tend to be very shy. There are expressions that are beautiful and serene. But there reside also in the human spirit other less comfortable qualities. In order to understand the human being, and to ultimately control those less-than-pleasant aspects of ourselves we must face them and know them well. We must be prepared to experience discomfort in the extreme. To do otherwise would be to assign our heads a place in the sand. Procedures manuals and restrictions that attempt to control the exhibition and performance of serious works of art simply add to the loss of the control so desired.

It takes great courage to meet the responsibilities that properly belong to an institution of higher learning. I note the lone and courageous dissent by board member Ron Klein. I salute Mr. Ron Klein for his courage. I condemn the remaining members of the board of trustees of Kishwaukee College for their failure to courageously meet the responsibility of providing a free, open and unfettered arena within which the human spirit may explore and express itself. While freedom is essential in the judgment of facts, it is even more indispensable to the imagination.

Ben Mahmoud

School of Art