The top academic leaders at the University of Kansas declared Friday their intent to keep a controversial piece of U.S. flag art on display in a university museum as scheduled through July rather than comply with demands by several politicians to remove it from campus.
Chancellor Doug Girod and interim Provost Carl Lejuez informed university faculty and staff that necessary steps were taken Wednesday to ensure public safety and quell criticism by ordering the artwork removed from an outdoor flagpole and placing it inside Spencer Museum of Art.
"This work of art has elicited strong reactions and calls for its removal," the officials said in a letter posted to a website available to the public. "We are writing to reaffirm our full commitment to ensuring the exhibit remains in the Spencer Museum through its scheduled run."
Gov. Jeff Colyer and Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who are competing in the Aug. 7 primary for the Republican nomination for governor, urged the university to take the flag down. A pair of 2nd District GOP congressional candidates, military veteran Steve Watkins and state Sen. Caryn Tyson, shared frustration with the decision to fly on Jayhawk Boulevard an embellished U.S. flag that was part of a traveling exhibit.
German-born artist Josephine Meckseper's work depicted the country's struggle with division. It had been flying on campus since July 5 after being shown at more than a dozen other locations in the United States. The art project was developed by the New York nonprofit Creative Time.
Neither Kobach, Colyer nor Tyson were satisfied with transfer of the flag to Spencer museum, referring to Meckseper's work as a desecration of the flag.
"This desecrated flag should never have been displayed and doesn’t belong in the museum at KU where it now resides," said Tyson, a graduate of KU. "In fact, using the museum as a display case for anti-American bigotry is immoral and appalling."
In the statement, the KU administrators said removing the "Pledges of Allegiance" art exhibit from the museum would be wrong.
"University of Kansas prides itself on being a marketplace of ideas that supports engaged and inclusive dialogue with our communities," the statement from Girod and Lejuez said. "As university leaders — one of whom is a Navy veteran — we understand the point of view of those who may disagree with the content of this kind of speech. At KU, we strongly affirm the right to express it."