It isn't art until it's been approved

Monday, January 08, 2007 at 05:32 PM

From the SF Chronicle:

Teacher fired: accused school of censorship
A part-time instructor at the Art Institute of California-San Francisco has been fired after he objected to the administration's confiscation of a magazine that students produced as a final project for his course in cultural studies.

Robert Ovetz was told on Dec. 20 that he could not return to teach a class in world conflict for the winter quarter. He has taught at the Art Institute for about three years and also teaches political science at the College of Marin.

Ovetz said Wednesday that he believes the dismissal was prompted by his complaint that the administration had violated the First Amendment, as well as a state law protecting student publications from censorship by confiscating nearly all 500 copies of the magazine Mute/Off on Dec. 6.

Ovetz said that he wasn't told the magazine would be recalled and that it took administrators two weeks to respond to his e-mail inquiries about what happened to the magazine which was supposed to be available to students and faculty.

"I protested very strongly the censorship, and the next day they called me up and said they were not giving me the class they had already committed to for the next quarter starting Monday," he said. "The timing is impeccable."

A spokeswoman for the school, which has about 1,600 students, declined to comment on Ovetz's employment status. But she acknowledged that the magazine was confiscated, saying the class had distributed it without submitting it to administrators for review.

"We retracted the publication until it went through the appropriate review process," said Gigi Gallinger-Dennis. "We need to make sure it upholds to the school values and to the professional standards we have at our school."

She said the magazine has been reviewed and will be reissued soon in its entirety.

Among the school's concerns were copyright infringement and "potentially defamatory journalism" from a collage of corporate logos that was overlaid with the words "Organized Crime." One of the logos was that of Goldman Sachs, which bought the school in 2006.

There was apparently also some concern about a fictional short story in which three main characters are "gangsta-style" blacks who are revealed at the end of the story to be figures  in a video game being played by suburban white youths.