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

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

In early May, after confronting the Students For Life of America members on campus, Rodriguez was summoned to the provost’s workplace and questioned by the Hunter College 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 Students for Life of America continued to circulate the video and “mobilized their members and supporters to attack [her].”

Then, on the morning of Tuesday, May 23, New York Post reporter Reuven Fenton confirmed up at Rodriguez’s house within the Bronx looking for an impromptu interview. According to Rodriguez, Fenton and his crew entered the constructing with out ringing the intercom and pounded on Rodriguez’s door. Rodriguez reportedly advised Fenton via the closed door to “get the f–k away” and threatened to assault him with a machete. Fenton and his accompanying documentation crew recorded Rodriguez finally opening the door to her house and taking a blade as much as Fenton’s neck earlier than retreating and locking the door behind her. Additional dash-cam footage released by the Post exhibits Rodriguez following Fenton and his staff out of the constructing and onto the road with the machete in her hand and chasing a photographer round a automotive.

Rodriguez says the web harassment she skilled within the weeks previous to this incident led her to consider 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 demise and bodily violence. 

“All this has taken a toll on my mental health, robbing me of my sense of safety, and creating reasonable fear that they would show up at my home to cause me physical harm, as has happened with so many other women who have similarly had their personal info exposed as a form of politically motivated harassment,” Rodriguez mentioned in a press release shared with Hyperallergic.

Screenshots of emails acquired 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 May 2 video of Rodriguez protesting the anti-abortion desk was extensively circulated in The College Fix and different right-wing web sites which have been flagged by independent groups monitoring information shops contributing to the focused harassment of school in US universities. Students for Life of America’s board of directors contains representatives from a number of conservative teams, together with the Federalist Society, which has been instrumental in the appointment of right-leaning judges to the Supreme Court; the American Life League, one of many nation’s oldest Catholic pro-life nonprofits; and the ​​Republican National Committee, amongst others.

“As much as this incident has stakes for my life, it is ultimately just one part of a broader political struggle taking place across the country,” Rodriguez mentioned. “Right-wing media organizations are weaponizing and sensationalizing this case to further their agenda, and using me as a prism through which to project their attacks on women, trans people, Black people, Latinx people, migrants, and beyond.”

In response to Hyperallergic’s request for remark, Vince DiMiceli, Hunter’s assistant vice chairman of communications, offered the next assertion: “Hunter College strongly condemns the unacceptable actions of Shellyne Rodriguez and has taken immediate action. Rodriguez has been relieved of her duties at Hunter College effective immediately, and will not be returning to teach at the school.” Rodriguez can be an adjunct professor on the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in Manhattan. A spokesperson for SVA advised Hyperallergic that whereas Rodriguez shouldn’t be at the moment educating any programs, the college is “assessing to determine any potential next steps.”

In the wake of the fallout after the May 2 confrontation, Rodriguez was met with an outpouring of assist from members of the Hunter neighborhood, together with the student- and faculty-led group CUNY for Abortion Rights, which circulated a petition in her assist. “Her actions to shut down the tabling were fully justified, and are part of a long and celebrated CUNY legacy of confronting groups such as military recruiters who disseminate misleading information,” 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, supplied a private perspective when reached by Hyperallergic for her reactions to Rodriguez’s dismissal.

“Shellyne [Rodriguez] and I met through the movement for Puerto Rican liberation, and she has quickly become somewhat of a mentor to me,” De Jesus mentioned. “She’s helped me become level-headed when the art world begins to feel heavy on me, but most importantly, she reminds me that I’m not alone. Being a Nuyorican from the hood in NYC, it’s easy to feel like you don’t quite fit into the art world’s idea of a fine artist, but Shellyne has taught me that it’s okay, because we don’t want to fit in a box, anyway.” 

A longtime artist and activist primarily based within the Bronx, Rodriguez acquired her MFA in Studio Art at Hunter College 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 neighborhood’s modes of survival, decolonization, and resistance to subjugation and erasure via displacement and state-sanctioned violence. In 2020, Rodriguez produced a sequence of work and drawings that expanded the definition of “essential workers” to incorporate the activists and organizers who had been defending her neighborhood throughout an uptick in police presence following an incident during which NYPD drew their guns at 19-year-old Adrian Napier in a subway automotive for hopping a turnstile. This spring, she was one of five honorees acknowledged on the anniversary celebration of the Latinx Project at New York University, 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 neighborhood and its belongings.

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

“Now I feel like nothing has changed and, in fact, the strategies of these organizations have gotten more sophisticated,” Olsoff advised Hyperallergic. “Now all organizations like the AFA have to do is manipulate an iPhone video and characterize Rodriguez as an insane gay black woman professor. With the click of a button, their hateful message of fear, violence, racism, sexism, and homophobia can be sent across the country and the world — meant to target people of color, the LGBTQAI+, women’s rights and anyone who doesn’t fall in line with their agenda.”

Editor’s observe 5/24/23 7:18pm EDT: This article has been up to date with a press release from Wendy Olsoff, co-founder of PPOW Gallery.

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