Tag Archives: freedom of expression

“…the university President’s job is to stand up for freedom of expression”

This letter was sent to the Polytechnic, Troy Record, and Times-Union but was not published :

March 7, 2008

Dear Editor,
In the last two years at R.P.I., there has been a number of art pieces that referenced the so-called War on Terror (aka the war on Islamofascism, Gulf War 2, etc…) as well as radical groups like the Earth Liberation Front, the Shining Path and even old Ted Kazinsky. But Wafaa Bilaal’s “Virtual Jihadi” was made by a Middle-eastern artist. Perhaps that is the difference for why the public is no longer allowed to see or interact with this work. The Secret Service has every right to investigate any perceived threats to the President. But once the “threat” was quickly determined to be a hacked video game, the university President’s job is to stand up for freedom of expression. The R.P.I. administration is running scared. They should send their resumes off to the American Enterprise Institute and write position papers protecting us from all evil. If they insist on abdicating their responsibility towards freedom of thought and speech in America, a university is no place for them.

Jim Finn
Graduate Student
R.P.I.

Concerning the Closure of the Sanctuary for Independent Media

Dear Mayor Tutunjian,

As an artist yourself, you must understand the importance of both freedom of expression and the role that artists play in the culture of any place.  I am sure, then, that you are horrified as I by the recent turn of events regarding The Sanctuary for Independent Media.

Troy’s much-ballyhooed revitalization is inextricably linked to the vitality of the arts community here, a community that is currently feeling a considerable lack of respect from the City’s administration.

I look forward to hearing your public condemnation of Mr. Mirch’s behavior as soon as possible.  Your constituents are awaiting your response, Mr. Mayor, and at times like these we need a leader who will stand up for what’s right.

Respectfully,
Penny Lane

“The use of benign law to an illegitimate end…”

13 March 2008

The Honorable Harry J. Tutunjian
One Monument Square, City Hall
Troy, New York 12180
Dear Mayor Tutunjian,

I am writing you to express my sincere concern over the closure of the Sanctuary for Independent Media in Troy, NY. I understand that the center was closed for violations of the building code; however, I feel that the circumstances surrounding the center’s closure raise very real concerns of denial of freedom of expression and procedural due process.

It is my understanding that the Sanctuary for Independent Media was closed for code violations after it agreed to host the artwork of Wafaa Bilal. I confess that I am not familiar with Mr. Bilal’s work; however, I gather that many people find it to be very objectionable. The fact that the work is objectionable, provocative—perhaps even repugnant—is what lies at the heart of the First, Fourth, and Fourteenth Amendment concerns raised by the City’s actions.

We live in a nation of laws. And the knowledge that the law applies equally to the sinners as to the saints, to the rich as to the poor, is what underlies the rule of law. There may well have been building code violations when the center was shut down, but I am certain you realize that closing an art gallery for a code violation immediately after a controversial exhibit opens reeks of selective enforcement.

This poses perhaps an even greater danger than were the City of Troy to close down the Sanctuary for Independent Media for obscenity or sedition. Where this the case, only abuses of power would be at issue. The use of benign law to an illegitimate end is an abuse of the law itself. The virtue of our system law is that we are all equals before it, but selective enforcement is a use of the state’s police powers to destroy that equality. It leads us to question the law and those who enforce it. It forces us to be suspect of any exercise of legal authority. The very building codes at issue have been used as a source of positive rights, by guaranteeing that everyone who rents an apartment has the right to a safe and habitable dwelling. But if we fear the evils that the law may do, it may force us to abandon the good that it can accomplish.

The Supreme Court has consistently stated that strict scrutiny is demanded when the actions of government impinge on our fundamental rights. I must therefore urge you to articulate why a compelling and immediate need to close the Sanctuary for Independent Media arose at the peculiar time it did, or that you announce the establishment of independent forum to conduct an open investigation of the Constitutional issues raised by the closure of the Sanctuary by the Department of Public Works.

Best Regards,

Ryan H. White
Candidate for Juris Doctor
Northeastern University School of Law