Artist sues CSU for censorship

By: Kourtney Husnick

Cleveland State University has entered into another free speech debate, this time with artist Billie Lawless whose “The Politician: A Toy” sculpture sits behind the Business Building.

The artist filed a lawsuit in federal court against the university that claims university workers covered a phrase critical of President Donald Trump with a blank banner, according to a Cleveland.com report.

The university’s contract with Lawless says the university has no right to “modify, disassemble, or demolish” the artwork. It also requires either party to notify the other of a termination of the contract six months before the end date, according to Lawless’ attorney Andy Geronimo via Cleveland.com.

Throughout the years, which tally over a decade, Lawless has consistently updated the sculpture to criticize other politicians, but he has never been censored on Cleveland State’s campus before this incident.

However, this is not the first time that Lawless has threatened a lawsuit. A student initiative for a community garden was struck down due to conflict with the artist, as explained by Cleveland State alum Peter Bode in a 2013 article from the Cleveland Stater.

Since the issue began in October 2018, organizations like the National Coalition Against Censorship took note and responded, urging the university to remove the covering and “demonstrate respect for the critical capacities of its student body and the larger Cleveland community,” as explained on their website.

“There is no new information regarding the lawsuit against CSU for censoring a phrase on the sculpture near the business building at this time,” answered William Dube, director of communications and media relations at Cleveland State, when asked to connect The Cauldron with someone to discuss the lawsuit.

 

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