Death of Free Speech at Polk State College

This is an investigation into the censorship of art by renowned artist Serhat Tanyolacar at Polk State College for being 'too controversial'. I hope to document the internal workings of an American college administration attempting to censor protected speech in the form of artistic expression by an adjunct faculty member.

To justify censorship of artwork critical of President Trump Polk State College administrators claimed the art would upset high school students who might see it and that display of the artistic work could be criminally prosecuted as obscene for violating the Miller standard, a standard which contains an exception for artistic works and political commentary. Records to date show that this justification was developed after Polk State College censored the art and in consultation with legal counsel and a professional crisis response firm.

From the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education:

“In early January, Polk State encouraged all faculty members in its arts program, including Tanyolacar, to submit artwork to a faculty exhibition scheduled to begin on Feb. 12. Tanyolacar submitted a piece titled “Death of Innocence” which depicts several poets and writers juxtaposed with a number of pictures of President Donald Trump and other political figures engaging in sexual activity. Tanyolacar said the art is intended to highlight “moral corruption and moral dichotomy” and provoke debate. In response to his submission, Polk State Program Coordinator Nancy Lozell informed Tanyolacar on Feb. 6 that his artwork would not be displayed. “After review by the gallery committee and the gallery administrator it was agreed upon that your piece Death of Innocence should not be displayed,” Lozell wrote, because the college “offers classes and volunteer opportunities to our collegiate charter high schools and other high schools in Polk county and we feel that that particular piece would be too controversial to display at this time.”

Polk State College deems explicit anti-Trump art “too controversial” for campus display from Tampa Bay Times.

Interview with Serhat Tanyolacar by College Art Association.

Serhat Tanyolacar’s website.

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