Free Speech

Citing 'Public Safety,' University of Kansas Removes Flag Artwork That Made Republicans Upset

"This display has generated public safety concerns for our campus community."


Nightryder84 / WIkimedia Commons

Administrators at the University of Kansas took down a controversial work of art—an American flag covered in black ink—after the state's Republican governor and secretary of state demanded action.

"The disrespectful display of a desecrated American flag on the KU campus is absolutely unacceptable," said Gov. Jeff Colyer in a statement. "Men and women have fought and died for that flag and to use it in this manner is beyond disrespectful. I spoke to leadership to demand that it be taken down immediately."

The flag is meant to symbolize "a deeply polarized country," according to the artist, Josephine Meckseper. Now it represents the speed with which craven university administrations bow to the easily offended. In a statement, KU Chancellor David Girod said:

There has been much discussion today about a public art exhibit on our campus featuring an artist's depiction of an American flag. Our Spencer Museum, along with other institutions nationally, have participated in this year-long series of exhibits intended to foster difficult conversations.

Over the course of the day, the conversation around this display has generated public safety concerns for our campus community. While we want to foster difficult dialogue, we cannot allow that dialogue to put our people or property in harm's way.

We have begun the process of relocating the exhibit to the Spencer Museum of Art, where we can continue the important conversation it has generated.

That's right: The university invoked public safety as an excuse to remove a work of art that offended conservatives.

The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has called on KU to reverse course. KU "should take a strong stand for the First Amendment," FIRE's Peter Bonilla said. "By doing so, KU would stand apart from the numerous institutions that have censored artistic expression—a troubling trend documented in our just-released report, 'One Man's Vulgarity,' drawn from FIRE's many years fighting against art censorship on campus."