Dear members of the Bates community,

I write with regard to the removal from the Ladd Library Arcade on Tuesday morning (Nov. 4th) of a large-scale collaborative art project by Professor Pamela Johnson’s class in Visual Meaning. The removal of the installation was a mistake – it should not have happened. The decision resulted from a series of miscommunications among staff in various departments, all of whom were acting in good faith, but with imperfect information. I want to express my sincere apologies to Professor Johnson, her students, and the entire campus community for this serious error.

I visited with Professor Johnson and her class last night and learned that the installation, which involved a large number of boxes carefully arrayed against the back wall of the Arcade with a succession of messages displayed above them, was an evolving work designed to be in place for four days, with changes introduced each night. Before putting up the display, Professor Johnson’s students had reserved the Ladd Library Arcade for this purpose through the college’s Event Management System. The class had also secured the permission of a Security staff member to bring a vehicle into the library area in order to unload the large volume of materials needed to set up the installation.

This is the second time within a short period that college staff have removed displays on campus, unwittingly risking important and related community values – artistic expression in the case of the Ladd Library exhibit and freedom of expression in the case of the boat display placed in front of Commons last week.

These recent decisions have occurred in no small part because of a lack of common understanding at the college regarding public displays. Clearly we need to review and clarify our policies and principles governing installations of public art and other forms of expression so that everyone on campus feels supported in their work. I welcome advice from interested faculty, staff, and students as we establish a more coherent approach to these issues.

In the meantime, I have spoken with the departments involved in these decisions and emphasized that any action to disturb a campus display of any kind that does not involve an immediate threat to safety should be made in consultation with my office.

Thank you for your patience as we work together to align our policies and practices with important community values.


Clayton Spencer