Friday, April 18, 2008

Aspirational Peers Indeed

I was doing nothing but minding my own business, when I ran across this article, which is, to say the least, deeply disturbing. The headline is called "Yale Student Insists 'Abortion Art' Project Is Real, Despite University's Claims of 'Creative Fiction'" and it tells of a senior art student at Yale, who repeatedly artificially inseminated herself then made "self-induced miscarriage procedures, though she never actually knew whether she was pregnant." Then from the miscarraiges, she made "art", to be on display later this week.

In reading some more articles and readers' comments, it seems like the next biggest controversy, besides the depravity of her actions, is whether or not she actually did what she said she did. She went back and forth a couple of times, and Yale says it was all a hoax, then she said that she had academic advisors and had University approval. Other issues raised concern the relationship of a woman's body to abortion, what constitutes as art in this postmodern era, freedom of speech and First Amendment rights, and whether she is just an attention-seeking performance artist.

My personal interpretation is that Yale endorsed her actions, then recieved a LOT of criticism for it and changed their official stance. Even if it is all a hoax, the fact that Yale is still permitting her to display her art (a blood-smeared cube of plastic) is telling. That there is the slightest possiblity her display is made from the results of her miscarraiges/abortions means that Yale is giving tacit consent to her actions or they don't have the moral courage to do anything besides distance themselves from something they may have at one point endorsed.

But all in the name of Academic Freedom, right? This is the Shining City on the Hill, right?

Yale University says that Aliza Shvarts, a senior, has assured officials that she did not really inseminate herself and induce miscarriages for her senior project, slated to go on display. Shvarts continues to imply otherwise. The university has upped the ante by saying that it will not permit her to display her work unless she signs an “unambiguous written statement that her installation is a work of fiction.” A statement from the university also indicated that an instructor and an adviser failed in their jobs overseeing the work and questioning it, and that “appropriate action” has been taken.


Joseph Lawler said...

What if a Yale student pretended to murder homeless people on camera, and claimed it was an exploration of socioeconomic tensions?
What if she presented blood along with videos showing her cutting herself, purportedly to examine issue s of depression? In either case it would be unethical to present the exhibit.
Furthermore, if this is presented in an academic context, she is guilty of academic fraud (assuming it was a hoax) and should be expelled from the university.

Brandon said...

I really don't have anything to say about this, other than it sounds like it has no academic value whether it is a hoax or not.

Anonymous said...

Once begun, the path towards something like this is impossible to stop. Once you allow one thing in the name of academic freedom, you have a harder time stopping anything else because they will all insist everything should be allowed in the name of academic freedom. I don't think Yale ever meant for anything to go this far, but, once begun, its a slippery slope. Someone could object by saying that we'd never let it get that far, but someone else could reply by asking who intends for things to go that far?

Loan said...


Anonymous said...

Yale is an aspirational peer, but as Jenkins has said over and over again, we hope to imitate and surpass their genuine research contributions--not their lack of faith.

There is a terrible amount of animosity on this website against ND's increased research initiatives. Apparently you all know nothing about what it means to be a research institute, and you know nothing about what it means to be a graduate student here. It is bad enough that graduate students are second class citizens here (ask just about any grad student about this, most will have a list of grievances against ND from research funding to parking to health insurance).