A University of Wisconsin–Stout theater professor, James Miller,has come under fire after putting up a poster for the Joss Whedon sci–fi western cult classic, Firefly, on his office door.
The poster (seen here) included one of Captain Malcolm Reynolds’ (Nathan Fillion) many classic quotes: “You don’t know me, son, so let me explain this to you once: If I ever kill you, you’ll be awake. You’ll be facing me. And you’ll be armed.” But apparently there’s a lot of very stupid people involved with monitoring the happenings of The University of Wisconsin–Stout, because campus police saw the poster, blindly only saw the words “kill you,” and removed it because clearly some kid was going to wander by, see it, and kill someone.
Chief of Police Lisa A. Walter e–mailed Miller, informing him that they had removed the poster and that “it is unacceptable to have postings such as this that refer to killing,” even though it’s clear that Captain Mal is simply stating that he only kills if he has to, and not because a poster made him do it.
Miller then responded with “Respect liberty and respect my first amendment rights,” to which Walter tried to explain, saying “My actions are appropriate and defensible. Speech can be limited on a reasonable expectation that it will cause a material and/or substantial disruption of school activities and/or be constituted as a threat. We were notified of the existence of the posting, reviewed it and believe that the wording on the poster can be interpreted as a threat by others and/or could cause those that view it to believe that you are willing/able to carry out actions similar to what is listed. This posting can cause others to fear for their safety, thus it was removed.” And then tagged on a threat of criminal charges as well, saying “If you choose to repost the article or something similar to it, it will be removed and you could face charges of disorderly conduct.”
Then Miller put up a second poster (seen here) about fascism, which of course was also taken down, with e–mail explanation from Walter. You can see their e–mail correspondence here and here.
Feeling that his rights had been violated, Miller went to FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) about his situation. They then wrote a lengthy e–mail to UWS Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen (seen here) asking them to end their censorship of Miller, apologize for what happened, and rescind a request for a meeting about the incident by the school’s “threat assessment team.”
That e–mail is yet to be responded to, but FIRE Vice President of Programs, Adam Kissel, spoke on the situation, saying “It is both shameful and absurd for UWS to suggest that campus community members are so impressionable and unreasonable that merely seeing a reference to violence on a poster will lead them to commit either actual violence or a substantial disruption of the campus. The police and the threat assessment team are the true threats to freedom at UW–Stout.”