Howrigan apologizes, censorship unintended

Partially locked out and blocked out of the Julian Scott Memorial Gallery on Friday, April 24 with paper covering the windows and a sign that read “Warning: mature content art show in progress,”

Professor of Fine Arts Ken Leslie sent out a campus-wide email to open discussion about the issue of censorship. After reading that email, Associate Dean of Admissions Penny Howrigan said she would like to apologize on behalf of her staff.

That Friday was an open house for accepted students and students just beginning their college search, as well as the ECE (Extended Classroom Experience), which are big events for the admissions office. One of the tour guides from admissions brought to Howrigan’s attention that one of the upcoming BFA gallery shows was going to be rather graphic, so she and her staff felt there should be some signage alerting people that it was mature themed.

“That probably was not even necessary,” says Howrigan, “but because at these events we often have a lot of siblings and younger kids, it was a way to just kind of let people know.”

Howrigan says that after she saw the image of the windows covered in green paper that Leslie sent out with his email, she was mortified.

“What basically happened was there was some miscommunication, and people went beyond just putting the sign up, and that was not the intent,” says Howrigan. “Apparently, the other issue is that the gallery was locked and the lights were turned off. We don’t even have keys to that, so I think either Public Safety or someone else in Dibden forgot to unlock the gallery that day. The whole thing was basically a train wreck.”

Howrigan says people in her office were not trying to censor, although it may have come across that way, and there was no malicious intent. It was an effort to simply alert people, and it got out of hand.

“I just hope that the JSC Community, the art community, and especially Jessie [Warren], Lance [Caron], and Blaze [Nicolosi] will forgive the lack of oversight on my part, because I should have been a little more clued in to what we were doing. There are really just a lot of details for the day, and I didn’t quite get what was happening. I really apologize to everybody about that.”

According to Howrigan, she attempted to contact the artists to personally apologize, but was only able to get ahold of Blaze. She wants to make sure that everyone knows that her office believes in freedom of speech and freedom of expression, and does not want to suppress either.

“All I can say is ‘lesson learned,’” says Howrigan, “and that we will never, ever, again interfere with any art, any exhibit, and I’m really sorry it happened. I’m guilty, I own it, and I just think it got taken a step too far. I’m kind of treating it as a personnel matter, and I know people make mistakes. We were trying to be sensitive to the audience that was coming, and we weren’t trying to censor anything.”