A storm has been brewing at American universities in the past few years over what can be taught in the classroom. Critics have accused administrations of stifling faculty and overprotecting students by using a gender-discrimination law known as Title IX and by insisting on “trigger warnings” for potentially controversial material covered in the curriculum. The School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) is now at the centre of the storm, due to its treatment of Michael Bonesteel, an adjunct professor specialising in outsider art and comics who resigned this year after two Title IX complaints were filed by transgender students.
In his June resignation letter, Bonesteel told the dean that the atmosphere at the school “feels more like a police state than a place where academic freedom and the open exchange of ideas is valued.” And this month, the Chronicle of Higher Education published a deeply reported, blow-by-blow account of the situation, prompting a string of comments online blasting SAIC for its “weak-kneed administration coddling self-righteous students” and a culture of “political correctness run amok”.
Laura Kipnis, whose new book Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus exposes the recklessness and capriciousness of Title IX investigations, has also weighed in on Twitter, faulting the SAIC for “jawdropping cowardice”. “Censoring speech at an art school! Duchamp reels in grave,” she tweeted, adding a suggestion that SAIC donors “think twice abt their next check.” (The school is close to completing a $50m capital campaign to increase resources such as scholarships.) Read More