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CMU supports Conflict Kitchen and community

Interim Provost Nathan Urban emailed the campus on Tuesday to condemn violent threats received by Conflict Kitchen, an art project created by Jon Rubin and Dawn Weleski (CFA ’10), a Carnegie Mellon professor of art and an artist, respectively. The Kitchen shut down on Nov. 7 after affiliates received death threats, but has since reopened.

In the email, Urban states “Threats of violence ... have a chilling effect on free expression, have no place in civilized society, and deserve universal condemnation as well as appropriate judicial action.” The university’s decision to comment on the threats and place itself in the midst of the controversy stirring over the Kitchen shows a heightened support by the university for campus members’ work that members of The Tartan’s editorial board have not often witnessed during their tenure at the university. The decision to comment on the death threats is a promising indicator that the university will continue to back its students and faculty in the face of conflict.

The last prominent controversy surrounding a student’s art occurred when a student dressed as the Pope with a cross shaved into her pubic hair for what would be the art school’s last annual Anti-Gravity Downhill Derby during Spring Carnival 2013. After the performance art was decried by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon followed up with disciplinary action for the student and condemned her actions.

While the student’s actions were admittedly controversial, this instance showed a lack of support by the university for its student’s act, which was comparable to previous performances at the Derby. In that instance, it seemed as if the university bowed to outside pressures.

The support for Conflict Kitchen, however, shows a marked turn in the university’s support for its campus members. The university had no obligation to comment on the Kitchen and place itself on the side of the project when there are ardent supporters and detractors. The Tartan hopes that this public announcement by the university regarding Conflict Kitchen is not a singular instance of support, but becomes a consistent trend.