University of Cincinnati Office of the President

University of Cincinnati Office of the President

Statement on Student Art Display

Date: 03/06/2013 
From: President Santa J. Ono

Several members of our campus community have reached out to me to share their concerns about the “Re-Envisioning the Female Body” exhibit on McMicken Commons sponsored by two UC student groups.  In short, some consider the material to be objectionable and thus asked that I ban the exhibit.  While I understand their position and fully support their right to speak up and speak out, I believe that this is a teachable moment for all of us. 

We are, first and always, an academic community where ideas and images, however complex or controversial, are carefully analyzed and debated.  These intellectual exchanges, while invigorating, can also be challenging and at times polarizing, but at a university like ours they cannot be extinguished, for they are part and parcel of who we are and what we do.  Furthermore, as the Ohio Attorney General has reiterated, we are a public institution obligated to protect the First Amendment, even—perhaps especially—when that protection results in disagreement. 

In sum, I see this exhibit and others on campus as an opportunity for us to grow as thinkers and leaders on all sides of such issues—to interrogate our assumptions, grapple with our differences, clarify our convictions and, above all, uphold our commitment to civility and collegiality.  As for the event, the student organizers have followed the necessary protocols; nevertheless, the University has taken the additional step of posting signs indicating the provocative nature of the material, per standard practice for such gatherings.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my thinking on this matter.  Let me say again how very proud I am to lead an institution that has the courage to respect difference and pursue dialogue, even when difficult.