(NEW YORK) – PEN America expressed disappointment today over another incident in which a Florida campus removed an art exhibit last month that explored the topic of prison abolition. PEN America said the free exchange of ideas should be “paramount” on college campuses.

The exhibit at the University of Florida was taken down, after administrators said they wanted to clarify that the art represented the views of the artist, not the university. After the exhibit was taken down, the building was vandalized with “Fuck off, fascists” written on the plywood over a shattered window. In turn, the university displayed a sign next to that graffiti saying, “This is artists’ speech, not UF speech.”

In response to the removal, PEN America’s senior manager of free expression and education Kristen Shahverdian, said: “It’s disappointing to see yet another removal of art on a Florida campus this year based on its political subject. While it is always acceptable for a university to denounce a political view that runs counter to their mission or values, it is absurd that anyone would confuse a gallery exhibit, let alone graffiti, with a university’s official positions. It is unfortunate to see university administrators order an art show taken down, without respect to artistic freedom; this is even more worrisome amid other recent art cancellations and the growing efforts to exert government control over expression state-wide. A wide range of artistic expression must be allowed on college campuses, where the free exchange of ideas is paramount.”

About PEN America

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. We champion the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. Our mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. To learn more visit PEN.org 

Contact: Suzanne Trimel, [email protected], 201-247-5057