Greetings William and the Rensselaer Community:
Although I am relieved that you say RPI is “pleased to have Bilal among us” I am shocked that the Institute has not allowed him his first amendment rights. Shutting down the show is a clear-cut case of censorship.
Just to be perfectly clear:
Wafaa Bilal’s art show is not illegal. He has been very open about the “origin, content, and intent” of the work, as have the Arts Department who invited him to RPI. There is no need for an ‘investigation’ unless of course you are not going to listen to any of us.
The administration shut down Bilal’s show after a student blog post (reprinted in the press) proclaimed the arts department a “safe haven for terrorists.” By shutting down the exhibit after speaking to the artist and the Arts Department the University has affirmed the original blog post, insinuating that they agree that Bilal could be a terrorist and that we–the faculty and employees of RPI–are harboring terrorists. The administration’s reaction to this art show is highly irresponsible. It endangers Bilal and undermines RPI faculty and staff.
This abuse of power is unacceptable. The saddest part about all of this is that Bilal has experienced this kind of censorship before: In Iraq, under Saddam Hussein.