A racy abortion project may be banned from its scheduled exhibit at Yale University, amid student protests and questions behind the truthfulness of the work.
The controversy over art and life swept Yale's campus last week after senior Aliza Shvarts claimed she self-induced abortions for her senior thesis project.
"I am appalled," Yale College Dean Peter Salovey said Friday. "The Dean of the School of Art and I are reassessing what constitutes an appropriate senior art project and the manner in which (they) are mentored."
Shvarts said her art project will include her blood and a video series of the self-induced miscarriages. It is set for exhibition, April 22, at the "Undergraduate Senior Art Show" held on campus.
On Sunday, Salovey said in a statement that the exhibit would be pulled from the art show if the student does not admit her project was a work of fiction and would not include human blood.
True or not, John Behan, president of the group Choose Life at Yale, says Shvarts' actions are not only disturbing, but also raise concern.
"We believe that Yale students, regardless of their views of abortion, will be deeply disturbed by this trivialization of the agony of women who face crisis pregnancies and endure miscarriages," he said. "This episode offends every thinking person who grapples with the deeply polarizing moral issue of abortion."
Faculty members involved with the project's approval have already been disciplined by the school.
An Unbelievable Story
University officials said last Thursday that Shvarts admitted to them she did not have miscarriages to develop the art piece, after her story was published in the campus newspaper.
The Yale Daily News published Shvarts' story Wednesday, April 16, based on a press release she wrote about her senior project.
In that press release, Shvarts claimed she "performed repeated self-induced miscarriages" by ingesting an abortifacient, a process that was oftentimes uncomfortable and made her bleed heavily.
After questioning the student, university officials told the press that Shvarts admitted to giving false information to the campus paper.
"She stated to three senior Yale University officials...including two deans, that she did not impregnate herself and that she did not induce any miscarriages," university spokesperson Helaine Klasky said.
Klasky added that the entire project was "creative fiction" designed to "draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman's body."
But Shvarts then told the campus newspaper Friday that the school's statement was "ultimately inaccurate." She contends that she did in fact engage in the process, and that she showed parts of her project to the paper and outside news reporters.
Later that day, university officials said her repeated denials were all part of her act.
"Ms. Shvarts' continuing repudiation of what she told senior university officials seems (to be) a part of her performance," Klasky said. "In conversations today with university officials, she reiterated what she had told the administrators yesterday."
Faculty Lapse in Judgement
Shvarts claimed she had the approval of the dean of her school, and at least two other faculty members to do the project.
But over the weekend, Robert Storr, Dean of the Yale School of Art, denied his part in the project.
"If I had known about this, I would not have permitted it to go forward," he said, in a third statement released by the university. "This is not an acceptable project in a community where the consequences go beyond the individual who initiates the project and may even endanger that individual."
Salovey says faculty members who were involved in the supervision of Shvarts' project did not use proper judgment. Though the school says it is committed to allowing freedom of expression, the controversial project posed a health risk to the student involved.
"In one case, the instructor responsible for the senior project should not have allowed it to go forward," Salovey said. "In the other, an adviser should have interceded and consulted others when first given information about the project."
Art Imitates Death
The Yale Women's Center is defending Shvarts' project, saying that, "whether it is a question of reproductive rights or of artistic expression," her "body is an instrument over which she should be free to exercise full discretion."
Shvart says her project will be portrayed using a large cube wrapped in plastic sheeting dipped in blood from her forced miscarriages. Recorded videos of the miscarriages will then be projected off the cube.
"I hope it inspires some sort of discourse," Shvarts told Yale Daily News Thursday. "Sure, some people will be upset with the message and will not agree with it, but it's not the intention of the piece to scandalize anyone."
Sources: CBN News, Yale Daily News, Yale University, Associated Press