Friday, March 11, 2016

Visual Assault on the UBC Campus

For three days now I have been compelled to either alter my path or shift my gaze to avoid the “Abortion Awareness Project” (formally called Genocide Awareness Project) [news links] as I walked from my home to my office in the Anthropology & Sociology Building.

On the first day, Wednesday of this week, I had no warning or prior notice of what I would see or that I should expect anything disruptive. I found the entire display profoundly disturbing.  It is racist, it is violent, it is aggressive.  Yesterday and today I found the same group now installed on the mall in front of Koerner Library. 

I do not know whether or not the images that are on display were previewed by anyone in UBC’s administration prior to their being installed on the campus. I can not image that any reasonable person viewing the images would find them appropriate for public display without some kind of warning, shielding, or other indication of what an unsuspecting viewer might be confronted with.   Nor can I accept that any amount of cash payment would be worth allowing the display to be erected publicly.

To hide behind a veil of free speech allows UBC to exempt itself from dealing with the violence of the particular imagery.  These are deliberate images designed to horrify, shock, and to create unease and anxiety in the viewer.  It is fundamentally a form of assault. What has been permitted on campus for three days now is not about free speech; it’s a public display designed to assault.  It is fundamentally a form of harassment that makes me, colleagues I have spoken with, and students that I know feel threatened and violated in our work place.

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