A Free Speech Win at George Washington University

Dear George Washington University Community members,

After discovering posters on campus with images that alarm some community members, university began to get concerns from official channels. Many of these concerned individuals cited biases and racism in relation to the Chinese community. Another email was sent to me directly by a student expressing concern.

Without any context or explanation of where the posters originated, I replied quickly to the student and wrote that I was also concerned. The posters had to be removed by the university staff as well. These replies were not correct. Each member of the GW Community should feel welcomed and supported. However, I could have spent more time understanding the situation before making a comment.

Since then, I learned from university scholars that these posters were created by Badiucao (a Chinese-Australian artist) and are intended to criticize China’s policies. These posters are not racist, they’re political statements. The university has not launched an investigation into the poster-displaying students and will not pursue any legal action.

I want to be very clear: I support freedom of speech—even when it offends people—and creative art is a valued way to communicate on important societal issues. My university has many faculty and students who actively oppose discrimination and marginalization.

The university’s research, scholarship and support of those who are most in need have been the reason this institution has succeeded for over 200 year. We are now in our third century. I pledge to keep our mission alive and ensure that our community continues to support this important work.


Mark S. Wrighton