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Professors Modrak and Tobier Design for Davis, Markert, and Nickerson Academic Freedom Lecture

Poster with text A New McCarthyism? Academic Freedom and Palestine headline and text about event details over a black and white aerial photo of the U-M Campus

Now in its 31st year, the University of Michigan’s Davis, Markert, and Nickerson Academic and Intellectual Freedom Lecture is the oldest such lecture series in the country. This year, the DMN committee invited Stamps Professors Rebekah Modrak and Nick Tobier to design the poster for the 2022 lecture, to be given by Dima Khalidi, Director of Palestine Legal. The lecture, titled, A New McCarthyism? Academic Freedom and Palestine,” will take place in person at Forum Hall in Palmer Commons and virtually via YouTube and Zoom on March 14, 2022 from 4 – 5:30pm.

Based on conversations with Khalidi about corporate influences on free speech at universities nationwide, Modrak and Tobier designed a poster connecting visual references of menace” during the McCarthy era with an image of the university campus. 

On March 4, the Chronicle of Higher Education published When University Marketing Suppresses Academic Freedom: At Michigan, is the word Palestine” taboo?, an article by Silke-Maria Weineck, professor of Germanic Studies and Comparative Literature and a member of the DMN committee. The article describes the alteration of Modrak and Tobier’s artwork by UM’s social media team — first, the removal of the word Palestine” and the omission of Khalidi’s name, and then a complete redesign and erasure of the work.

…for half a day, UM’s brand managers made it their mission to erase the word Palestine from a lecture about the erasure of Palestinian voices and to delete the visual traces of UM’s historical complicity in one of the darkest chapters of U.S. post-war history.
It is not amusing that the New McCarthyism now comes in maize and blue. It is not amusing that a university would show such abysmal disrespect for its own faculty’s work. As Modrak told me, Graphic art is public scholarship; altering it is akin to changing someone’s book content.’
It is not amusing that we incessantly talk about diversity, equity, and inclusion while burying the real thing under a shroud of corporate aesthetics that flatten every idea, every image, every thought.”

The original design by Modrak and Tobier can still be seen publicizing the event on university buses, on the Faculty Senate website, and on the cover of the event program.