Published on Groundup 19 June 2017. Read here for letter

Dear Editor

UCT’s equivocation on freedom of expression is contemptible. Just as Sean Spicer’s spin is quickly undercut by Trump’s tweets, the UCT Marketing Department’s claimed commitment to artistic freedom is contradicted by the Artworks Task Team’s order that paintings, photographs, drawings, and sculptures continue to be censored indefinitely. And Vice-Chancellor Max Price takes refuge in the sophistry that no artworks have been “banned”, when they are unquestionably being censored.

If, as the Artworks Task Team recommends, “some of the contested artworks” are taken out of storage and displayed together “in dedicated spaces such as the CAS Gallery”, comparisons with Goebbels’s Entartete Kunst exhibit will be unavoidable, and the injury done to the artists will be compounded. It would be better to stay out of the censorship business altogether.

UCT used to be made of sturdier stuff. Under apartheid censorship, the UCT library boldly stamped banned literature with the statement:

This notice reminds readers that the University of Cape Town is opposed to the State’s system of censorship, which undermines academic freedom and restricts the potential contribution of this university and others to South African society. The University of Cape Town is required by law to comply with the rules and regulations pertaining to censorship, but does so under protest.”

It is disturbing to watch a great liberal institution lose the courage of its convictions.

William Daniels
19 Jun 2017