NEW INFORMATION: UW-Stout lets professor display controversial posters

By: Chris Baylor Email
By: Chris Baylor Email

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.

Previous Story:

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.

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  • by Quote on Oct 5, 2011 at 03:51 AM
    College is for people that can't think for themselves.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Oct 5, 2011 at 07:59 AM in reply to Quote
      Complaining about college is for people who couldn't get in or just didn't want to do the work. Who needs that fancy book-learning, right? I'm sure you're "street smart".
  • by Scott on Oct 4, 2011 at 12:08 PM
    Just because you can doesn't mean you should.
  • by S. M. Location: Tennessee on Sep 29, 2011 at 10:12 PM
    I was under the impression that a university was supposed to be a bastion of freedom of thought and freedom of expression. Certainly, universities are supposed to prepare students to fight fascism. I have trouble seeing a problem with a theater professor putting up a poster from a TV show, especially one that advocates fighting fair as opposed to shooting someone in the back. Was it meant to be a metaphor on his grading policy? I've seen anthropology professors with cartoons making fun of Margaret Mead and Jane Goodall. I've seen law professors with the Shakespearean quote "First thing, let's kill all the lawyers" on a poster outside their doors. Why couldn't Ms. Walter have asked Professor Miller to move the poster to inside his office? Obviously, she's not familiar with Firefly or Serenity. Frankly, I think the chancellor of this school should be more concerned about Anonymous, who says he's a graduate student at Stout, misusing punctuation or Former Stout Student ignoring standard rules of capitalization.
    • reply
      by Anonymous on Sep 30, 2011 at 09:30 AM in reply to S. M.
      Thank you!
    • reply
      by Kelsey on Oct 4, 2011 at 06:45 PM in reply to S. M.
      Universities are the last place you find freedom of thought and expression. Professors who want tenure have to toe the line and agree/think like their dean.
      • reply
        by Anonymous on Oct 5, 2011 at 07:53 AM in reply to Kelsey
        As opposed to the business world, where nobody has to "toe the line" for their boss. When did it become so popular to be anti-intellectual?
      • reply
        by Hippie on Oct 5, 2011 at 08:24 AM in reply to Kelsey
        Bull! I loved the creativity and freedom of expression on campus. Once I returned to a 'real job' I once again felt stifled and surrounded by people that cannot or will not think outside of the box.
  • by Nellie on Sep 29, 2011 at 09:19 PM
    I believe that what Jim Miller has done is mild compared to the fact that concealed weapons will be allowed on campus after November 1st. I have heard that this concealed weapons being on campus is being rethought which is good because in my opinion there is no place for weapons on campus--period. They wouldn't be allowed in campus buildings so what are people going to do--check their concealed weapons at the door? I am not against concealed weapons, but there is no place for them on a college campus period!
    • reply
      by Mike on Sep 30, 2011 at 06:56 AM in reply to Nellie
      Of course, the First amendment is sacred, but we should ignore the Second? How many others should we ignore? If we do away with the Fifth, you could arrest people that you think might want to carry concealed. Do away with the Sixth and you could keep them in jail forever without a trial. How about the 19th? Wouldn't it be nice if we didn't have to worry about those pesky women voting for the "cute" guy instead of the qualified one?
      • reply
        by Jon on Oct 4, 2011 at 01:53 PM in reply to Mike
        Have you ever read the 2nd amendment mike? I'm not against CCW but nowhere in the 2nd amendment does it say CCW is a constitutional right, heck even gun ownership isn't a right by the 2nd amendment if you take it literally
    • reply
      by Ruth on Oct 5, 2011 at 07:00 AM in reply to Nellie
      Not sure how a story of a poster turned into a conceal carry discussion, but..OK. So, my daughter cannot carry a weapon to protect herself, but the assailant on campus....oh, well. Or be shot like fish in a barrel when a 'troubled' student opens fire like in VA? Have you LOOKED online to see how many sexual predators live around UW Stout? I do not see why people fear LAW ABIDING citizens, nor demand they not be allowed to protect themselves from those intent on performing violence against them. Come see me after you've become a victim, and we'll talk.
      • reply
        by Hippie on Oct 5, 2011 at 08:26 AM in reply to Ruth
        I'm not afraid of the law abiding citizens until the pull out their gun to take aim at the bad guy, and miss.
  • by Alumni Location: WI on Sep 29, 2011 at 04:44 PM
    If it is a poster of a movie why is it allowed to be posted at a movie theater and not allowed to be posted at a liberal university. UW-Stout is liberal isn't it? We have a diversity policy that is mentioned on the homepage. So why is this not allowed? I had a Stout History professor that stood up in front of class and said "It was a good day for America when JFK and MLK were assassinated"! That was ok because he was teaching that the blacks were being persecuted and it was the white peoples fault, according to him! Where was the campus police on this issue? I think the campus police are using a double standard and that they acted poorly by not contacting the professor personally. What is theater and artistic expression if everything has to be approved by the police first?
  • by Anonymous on Sep 29, 2011 at 01:52 PM
    Threat or not, 10 years ago this would not have been a issue. Cops would say something along the lines of,"until he/she does something against the law there is nothing we can do".
  • by Pete on Sep 29, 2011 at 01:27 PM
    take that poster down that way in the future i can sue over the first question asked on most ATM's. 1 for English 2 for spanish. This is America shouldn't we all know English? That first question worries me more then the statement on the poster.
    • reply
      by Kevin on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:21 AM in reply to Pete
      There isn't a "national language" for America. Most countries do have a national language, but America isn't one of them. Most of what is now California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas were actually part of Mexico and were Spanish speakers. The USA went to war with Mexico, and after the military victory drew a new line on a map and said everything north of this line is now part of America. The people living there didn't choose to be American, they didn't choose to be pressured into abandoning their language and heritage, and they certainly didn't choose to need a passport to visit their own family that happened to live south of the random line drawn by people in DC.
      • reply
        by Rick on Oct 1, 2011 at 02:41 PM in reply to Kevin
        Well the ALIENS are not staying in the 4 states that you listed so your arguement holds as much truth as a strainer. TYPICAL LIBERAL FOOLISHNESS. How about we only allow the ILLEGAL ALIENS in if they serve a tour in the armed forces? Earn their keep?
        • reply
          by Philo on Oct 3, 2011 at 07:26 AM in reply to Rick
          Considering that every illegal immigrant that I have worked with works 5 times harder than any natural born American, I think they've already earned their 'keep'. Furthermore, they live on much less than us, too, as most of them send a big chunk of the money they earn back to their families in their home countries.
        • reply
          by Anonymous on Oct 5, 2011 at 07:57 AM in reply to Rick
          Rick, what are you doing to "earn your keep"? If you answered "paying taxes", guess what? Illegal immigrants pay taxes too. I would bet good money that you are a citizen by luck, not by any hard work on your part. Before you complain that immigrants are destroying our country, consider that your ancestors were "destroying the country " too when they came here.
        • reply
          by Hippie on Oct 5, 2011 at 08:29 AM in reply to Rick
          They aren't obligated to stay in those 4 states. While they may not have chosen to be American, they ARE American. Thus are free to live where they want. I'm not saying that there isn't a problem with illegal aliens, because it is obvious that there is. However to discriminate against those that are rightfully here is a shame.
  • by gerald Location: EC on Sep 29, 2011 at 11:49 AM
    Oh, c'mon! I cannot believe that a person who has worked at a university for that long has never run into the thought police. Many professors ARE the thought police!
  • by dj on Sep 29, 2011 at 11:08 AM
    just paint the walls white, that will solve all the problems...first it was no religious articles on the walls, now its about a poster....welcome to the 4th reich
  • by Rosanne on Sep 29, 2011 at 11:04 AM
    This is disgusting that an educated man thinks his "cool" posters are not questionable. Especially the second one with the violent visual,...some may not read the words or not understand the message.
    • reply
      by Darryl on Sep 30, 2011 at 08:18 AM in reply to Rosanne
      If someone on a college campus can't be bothered to look at the entire poster before passing judgement, there are far, far more severe problems than the poster at work.
      • reply
        by Brendan on Sep 30, 2011 at 10:25 AM in reply to Darryl
        Amen. If you're in college and can't understand subtext, there's a problem.
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