Statement on “Firefly” Poster Incident at UW-Stout:
The recent discussion resulting from the removal of two posters hanging outside the door of a University of Wisconsin-Stout professor in Harvey Hall has raised serious First Amendment concerns, both on campus and across the country.
It is important to note that the posters were not removed to censor the professor in question. Rather, they were removed out of legitimate concern for the violent messages contained in each poster and the belief that the posters ran counter to our primary mission to provide a campus that is welcoming, safe and secure.
In retrospect, however, it is clear that the removal of the posters — although done with the best intent — did have the effect of casting doubt on UW-Stout’s dedication to the principles embodied in the First Amendment, especially the ability to express oneself freely. As many people have pointed out in the days since this issue surfaced, a public university must take the utmost care to protect this right.
Therefore, UW-Stout has reconsidered its decision to remove the two posters from outside the professor’s office, meaning he can display them if he so chooses.
The administration also is reviewing its procedures for handling these kinds of cases, and a new protocol is being developed in the hopes that a similar situation can be avoided in the future. Furthermore, the UW-Stout Center for Applied Ethics will schedule workshops and/or forums during this academic year on First Amendment rights and responsibilities in higher education.
For more than a century, UW-Stout has embraced the First Amendment, and we now reaffirm our support for the First Amendment rights for all of our students, faculty and staff.
MENOMONIE (WEAU)-A UW Stout professor is speaking out about having two posters taken down after they were deemed violent by the university.
The Stout theater professor says the two posters were far from violent, and says he can't figure out why he was targeted. The university says the posters made an implied threat of violence.
It all started with a poster and a quote from the end of the first episode of the show Firefly. A show that only ran for one season but Jim Miller says it still has a loyal fan base. The poster was of the actor Nathan Fillion and the quote, “You don't know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you'll be awake. You'll be facing me. And you'll be armed," was at the bottom.
“It was not put out there as a, boy this will make an overt threat to the campus. They will know I'm conquering campus. It was clearly a, hi firefly fans you win I'm aboard, here's a quote come talk to me about the show,” says Professor Dr. Jim Miller.
He’s been at Stout for more than 25 years and it's not unusual for the speech and theater professor to have posters, quotes or articles on his door.
“Professors wear their hearts on their sleeves but wear their souls on their doors; the door is like this is who I am,” says Miller.
He says he received an e-mail from the campus police chief saying the poster was taken down because it implied violence and it was unacceptable on campus. Miller says he replied saying the removal of the poster was a violation of his first amendment rights and that's when he put up poster about fascism.
“I don't need to show a 20 minute clip of fascism for someone to realize this poster says don't do the violent thing this man is doing," says Miller.
The university stands by its decision and says the quote talks about killing and the second poster depicts violence so they needed to come down.
"In this case looking at the posters it was the determination that they had an implied threat and they had to be removed. We have a responsibility as a university to provide a safe and secure environment for our students," says the Director of University Communications, Doug Mell.
“We’re a university, it's the speech department it doesn't occur to anyone to talk to just say let's find out if there is something we need to be concerned about,” says Miller.
Mell says as far as the university is concerned, the matter is finished but Miller says all communication has been through e-mail at this point and he wants an explanation face to face.