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Getting Censored When Your Voice Does Not Echo "Their" Own

Preface to My Digital Exhibition:

Prior to the creation of my digital exhibition, Prof. Nkiru Nzegwu started an email discussion highlighting the major issues with the exhibit, as well as Lynn Gamwell’s (director of the museum) decision to bring such an exhibit to a research institution like Binghamton University. The email included professors, students, director of the museum, graduate student organization, and high-level university officials such as the president and the provost. Eventually, the email grew with many critical responses to the exhibition. Please, see the commentaries from the Acebes exhibition.

October 19, Thursday

Since there was NO RESPONSE from Dr. Gamwell as well as from ANY university officials addressing the issues and concerns raised in the emails, I decided to create a digital exhibition. Since Gamwell said she won’t censor Acebes exhibition, I wanted to test the extent to which free speech is allowed on campus, and more so, I wanted to see who has the right or the privilege to represent. More importantly, I wanted to know if all naked bodies are the same especially when it is being represented by the “other”?

The theory is: what would happen if nude bodies of white women were represented? Would Dr. Gamwell still be against censorship as she was for the Acebes exhibition? Would the university have a problem if nude photographs of white women were represented? Is nudity the same or will certain representations of certain type of people be censored? Essentially, would Dr. Gamwell or Binghamton university object to an art exhibition that show white women as the subject of the gaze? With all these questions, I set out to create a digital exhibition that addressed those concerns. To accomplish this, I modeled the same techniques dominant in Acebes's representation of African women in my exhibition.

October 20, Friday: 8AM

My exhibition goes online.

I put up the digital exhibition, “Engaging the Camera: Portraits of White Women -- Acebes Other Show” on my university personal web account.

Address: http://bingweb.binghamton.edu/~anzegwu1/

I sent an email back to all the recipients of the original email started by Dr. Nzegwu about the Acebes exhibition. The email was directed to Dr. Lynn Gamwell.

* A web account performs two functions for storage: network space (h-drive is network drive for storing academic documents) and webpages. In my case, I used my space on the university web account, also known as Bingsuns, to store academic documents, class readings, and host my exhibition.

October 20, Friday: Between 12 - 1 PM

The website was shut down within a few hours online.

I was not informed prior to the shut down.

It was only after inquiring that I got some type of explanation.

How I found out about my website was shut down

After attending a forum on the exhibition, I noticed that my website was down after a colleague had requested to view it. I logged in my Bingsuns account through FTP (File Transfer Protocol) but I was unable to click the “public_html” folder, where the exhibition was stored for public access. Every time I clicked the “public_html” folder, it kept saying, “Permission denied.” All the other folders such as “bin” were accessible. In order words, my website was still on the server but it is not accessible to me or to anyone else who visit this link, http://bingweb.binghamton.edu/~anzegwu1/.

The university never contacted me or my department before shutting down my email AND web account. They did NOT provide any reasons prior to suspending my accounts.

I called the computing services to speak with a representative but was told the person was at lunch. I was provided with the name of the contact.

October 20, Friday: Between 2:30 – 3:00PM

I contacted Cindy Kester, the Assistant Director of Academic Computing at computing services regarding the shutdown of my website. At that time, I was only aware that my web account was shut down. Coincidentally, when I got Ms. Kester on the telephone, she told me that she was composing the letter at the very moment of my call. I have no idea if this was true or not.

Ms. Kester informed me that I broke copyright law by using the logos of the university and the art museum. She also communicated to me that there was a great urgency to bring down my website. I assume that whoever gave the order did not want my exhibition to be SEEN at all.

In any case, I asked her to still send me the email she was composing so that I would have it in writing. I should remind the readers that during our phone conversation, Ms. Kester NEVER informed me that my email account was suspended. Ironically, I will not have received her letter of explanation until Monday, October 23, 2006.

October 20, Friday 6PM

I checked my email at home only to discover that my email account was disabled. I should mention that Ms. Kester never mentioned it to me during our conversation, although she would have been aware which of my university accounts were cancelled.

By Friday at 6 PM, both my accounts were disabled. I was functioning with limited computing access, which I had paid for at the beginninging of the semester. Of course, all this made it hard to do my academic work and communicate with my professors.

October 22, 2006

I wrote a letter explaining that my web and email account were shut down. I sent this letter back to the original email list that was circulating about the exhibition. The president and provost were part of this email. Both of them never responded. (commentaries)

October 23, 2006

This is the email Ms. Kester sent to me on Friday after our phone conversation. Most of the things she mentioned on the telephone were not part of the email. (commentaries)

October 24, 2006

I sent the same letter to the president of the university. I never received a response. (commentaries)

November 2, 2006

I emailed Mr. Reed, vice-president of computing services, to find out the circumstance regarding the suspension of my email and web accounts. This email was also addressed to Ms. Kester. (commentaries)

November 5, 2006

This is Mr. Reed's response to my email on Nov 2, 2006. He did not address most of my concerns. He concluded by telling me to come in and sign the documents. (commentaries)

November 6, 2006

I emailed Mr. Reed again because of his suggestion about other copyright violation, and his lack of response to my questions and concerns. He never responded. (commentaries)

November 6, 2006

This is Ms. Kester's response to an email I addressed to Mr. Reed. She want me to come to her office. (commentaries)

November 6, 2006

I responded to Ms. Kester's allegations that I never came to her office, as well as her inconsistent stories, or lies. I also informed her that I will not sign any legal documents until all the questions in my email were addressed AND the circumstance surrounding the suspension of my accounts were disclosed. (commentaries)

November 6, 2006

This is Ms. Kester's response to my previous email. In her email, she says that she cannot reveal the name of the person who made the charge about copyright because it is not part of their practice. This is not what she told me earlier. And yet, she does not cite any policy which indicates that this is not their practice. (commentaries)

November 6-7, 2006

Somewhere around this time, Ms. Kester filed a report to Mr. Paul Stroud, the Associate Director of Judicial Affairs, about my refusal to sign the legal documents. She never mentioned to me that she will be filing a formal report against me. (commentaries)

November 15

I get a confidential "come see me" letter from Mr. Stroud in the Judicial Affairs demanding that I meet him on Friday or face an official charge from the university if I fail to show. The letter was written on November 8, 2006, just two days after I told Ms. Kester and Mr. Reed that I will NOT sign ANY LEGAL documents. The purpose of the meeting is to determine if the university will file a formal charge against me for the copyright violations (university and art museum logos) for my digital exhibition. (commentaries)

November 17

I met Mr. Stroud in his office in the Judicial Affairs office today. It was clear that Mr. Stroud will be filling an official charge against me for copyright violation. Mr. Stroud told me that the judicial hearing might resolve with the "usual" sentence. The "usual" sentence is a loss of computer access for a semester AND a disciplinary probation for a year. That is assuming if I get the "usual" punishment, otherwise, the sanctions will be worse. In short, I might loose my university funding.


All in all, the pending official charge by the university is their way of punishing me for creating such an exhibition.

Copyright is just a MASK for the real reasons the university have taken to shut down my website, disable my email account which had nothing to do with copyright (the university still have not provided any reasons for their actions), and finally, charge me for copyright violation.

lynn gamwellandrea barnwellisolde brielmaier





Art Exhibition

art exhition: engaging the camera: portraits of white women -- acebes other show
>> Engaging the Camera: Portraits of White Women -- Acebes Other Show

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