Friday, May 24, 2024

Arts Professor Shellyne Rodriguez Fired After Confrontation With Anti-Abortion Group

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Artist Shellyne Rodriguez was fired from her function as an adjunct professor at New York’s Hunter School within the fallout of a confrontation with anti-abortion activists on campus. On Could 2, Rodriguez was filmed approaching members of the College students For Lifetime of America group who had been tabling at Hunter’s Higher Manhattan campus and vocally protesting and disheveling the show, which included a number of rubber fetus fashions and pamphlets. Because the video circulated on social media, Rodriguez mentioned, she turned the goal of “vile and hateful emails, texts, and voicemails,” culminating in an unannounced go to from a New York Put up reporter this week that resulted in a tense altercation.

In early Could, after confronting the College students For Lifetime of America members on campus, Rodriguez was summoned to the provost’s workplace and questioned by the Hunter School provost and dean of variety and campus relations, who requested her to apologize to her college students for her use of profanity and for disturbing the anti-abortion show. Rodriguez says she complied with the college’s request and issued an apology, however College students for Lifetime of America continued to flow into the video and “mobilized their members and supporters to assault [her].”

Then, on the morning of Tuesday, Could 23, New York Put up reporter Reuven Fenton confirmed up at Rodriguez’s condo within the Bronx searching for an impromptu interview. In keeping with Rodriguez, Fenton and his crew entered the constructing with out ringing the intercom and pounded on Rodriguez’s door. Rodriguez reportedly informed Fenton by way of the closed door to “get the f–ok away” and threatened to assault him with a machete. Fenton and his accompanying documentation crew recorded Rodriguez finally opening the door to her condo and taking a blade as much as Fenton’s neck earlier than retreating and locking the door behind her. Further dash-cam footage launched by the Put up exhibits Rodriguez following Fenton and his crew out of the constructing and onto the road with the machete in her hand and chasing a photographer round a automobile.

Rodriguez says the net harassment she skilled within the weeks previous to this incident led her to imagine she was in life-threatening hazard. Hateful messages despatched to Rodriguez within the days after the confrontation with the pro-life group, a number of screenshots of which had been reviewed by Hyperallergic and reproduced under, included racial and sexual slurs and threats of dying and bodily violence. 

“All this has taken a toll on my psychological well being, robbing me of my sense of security, and creating affordable concern that they’d present up at my house to trigger me bodily hurt, as has occurred with so many different ladies who’ve equally had their private data uncovered as a type of politically motivated harassment,” Rodriguez mentioned in an announcement shared with Hyperallergic.

Screenshots of emails obtained by Shellyne Rodriguez after she confronted anti-abortion activists. These screenshots have been edited to blur out senders’ figuring out info and racial slurs. (courtesy Shellyne Rodriguez)

The Could 2 video of Rodriguez protesting the anti-abortion desk was extensively circulated in The School Repair and different right-wing web sites which were flagged by unbiased teams monitoring information shops contributing to the focused harassment of college in US universities. College students for Lifetime of America’s board of administrators includes representatives from a number of conservative teams, together with the Federalist Society, which has been instrumental within the appointment of right-leaning judges to the Supreme Court docket; the American Life League, one of many nation’s oldest Catholic pro-life nonprofits; and the ​​Republican Nationwide Committee, amongst others.

“As a lot as this incident has stakes for my life, it’s finally only one a part of a broader political battle going down throughout the nation,” Rodriguez mentioned. “Proper-wing media organizations are weaponizing and sensationalizing this case to additional their agenda, and utilizing me as a prism by way of which to venture their assaults on ladies, trans individuals, Black individuals, Latinx individuals, migrants, and past.”

In response to Hyperallergic’s request for remark, Vince DiMiceli, Hunter’s assistant vp of communications, supplied the next assertion: “Hunter School strongly condemns the unacceptable actions of Shellyne Rodriguez and has taken fast motion. Rodriguez has been relieved of her duties at Hunter School efficient instantly, and won’t be returning to show on the faculty.” Rodriguez can be an adjunct professor on the College of Visible Arts (SVA) in Manhattan. A spokesperson for SVA informed Hyperallergic that whereas Rodriguez isn’t at present educating any programs, the college is “assessing to find out any potential subsequent steps.”

Within the wake of the fallout after the Could 2 confrontation, Rodriguez was met with an outpouring of help from members of the Hunter group, together with the student- and faculty-led group CUNY for Abortion Rights, which circulated a petition in her help. “Her actions to close down the tabling had been totally justified, and are a part of an extended and celebrated CUNY legacy of confronting teams corresponding to army recruiters who disseminate deceptive info,” the petition learn.

Others have expressed solidarity with Rodriguez on social media. New York-based artist Danielle De Jesus, with whom Rodriguez had a two-person exhibition at Calderón Gallery in 2021, provided a private perspective when reached by Hyperallergic for her reactions to Rodriguez’s dismissal.

“Shellyne [Rodriguez] and I met by way of the motion for Puerto Rican liberation, and she or he has rapidly change into considerably of a mentor to me,” De Jesus mentioned. “She’s helped me change into level-headed when the artwork world begins to really feel heavy on me, however most significantly, she jogs my memory that I’m not alone. Being a Nuyorican from the hood in NYC, it’s simple to really feel such as you don’t fairly match into the artwork world’s concept of a effective artist, however Shellyne has taught me that it’s okay, as a result of we don’t need to slot in a field, anyway.” 

A longtime artist and activist primarily based within the Bronx, Rodriguez obtained her MFA in Studio Artwork at Hunter School in 2014 and labored there as an adjunct professor since 2017. Rodriguez is thought for her native activism and interdisciplinary artwork apply that decision consideration to her lifelong South Bronx group’s modes of survival, decolonization, and resistance to subjugation and erasure by way of displacement and state-sanctioned violence. In 2020, Rodriguez produced a sequence of work and drawings that expanded the definition of “important staff” to incorporate the activists and organizers who had been defending her group throughout an uptick in police presence following an incident during which NYPD drew their weapons at 19-year-old Adrian Napier in a subway automobile for hopping a turnstile. This spring, she was one in every of 5 honorees acknowledged on the anniversary celebration of the Latinx Undertaking at New York College, an initiative that promotes the work of US-based artists of Latin American and Caribbean descent. Earlier this yr, Rodriguez had her first solo exhibition at PPOW Gallery in Manhattan, that includes 22 coloured pencil drawings documenting the variety and solidarity of her group and its belongings.

Wendy Olsoff, co-founder of PPOW, condemned the “assault of Shellyne Rodriguez by the suitable.” She added that the current occasions remind her of previous defamatory campaigns in opposition to artists by conservative teams, such because the reactionary American Household Affiliation’s (AFA) makes an attempt to block public funding of artist and AIDS activist David Wojnarowicz’s 1990 exhibition Tongues of Flames.

“Now I really feel like nothing has modified and, the truth is, the methods of those organizations have gotten extra subtle,” Olsoff informed Hyperallergic. “Now all organizations just like the AFA need to do is manipulate an iPhone video and characterize Rodriguez as an insane homosexual black lady professor. With the clicking of a button, their hateful message of concern, violence, racism, sexism, and homophobia could be despatched throughout the nation and the world — meant to focus on individuals of coloration, the LGBTQAI+, ladies’s rights and anybody who doesn’t fall consistent with their agenda.”

Editor’s notice 5/24/23 7:18pm EDT: This text has been up to date with an announcement from Wendy Olsoff, co-founder of PPOW Gallery.

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