November 1996: Student exhibits sculpture of
Virgin Mary emerging from a vagina-like grotto as a reflection on
the woman's Catholic background. Work receives criticism and is
brought to the attention of The Catholic League for Religious and
Civil Rights.  Professor of Art Sallie McCorkle refuses to demand that the
student remove the artwork because artists must make independent
judgements and learn to face public response to their creativity.
"Penn State is here first to teach students," she says.
"Tolerance, civility, and sensitivity are not necessarily about
consensus." After rethinking her intentions, the student opts to
remove the work after 5 days on display.

February 1997: Same student submits work--a quilt made with 25
pairs of underwear, each embroidered with a cross--to a juried
student exhibition. The Catholic League expands a call for a
letter writing campaign and several Pennsylvania state
representatives demand that the art be removed. State
Representative John Lawless threatens to attempt to revoke the
University's public funding. The criticism focuses on the
impropriety of such displays at a public institution, which has
presumably broken its agreement with the taxpayers who support it
if it offends their beliefs and values. The controversy receives
national attention. Ultimately, The Philadelphia Inquirer
("Opinion," April 8, 1997) takes an editorial stand ("Who Needs
the First Amendment? Take a Look at the Penn State Case") in
support of Penn State, the student, and the faculty member. Penn
State's President Graham Spanier addresses the Faculty Senate in
support of an anti-censorship approach to education.

October 1999: Due to efforts of Professor McCorkle and Professor
Charles Garoian, Director of the School of Visual Arts, an Arts
Controversy Task Force is established which will assist with
conflicts concerning artistic, creative works and their display
and/or presentation on the Penn State campus. "The Task Force
will not condone any form of censorship nor will it adjudicate
any controversy. Its twofold purpose will be to mediate the
opposing perspectives of the conflicting parties and to initiate
an educational process whereby an exchange of ideas can occur. In
doing so, the aim of the ACTF is to create a dialogue where a
climate of understanding and appreciation for differing cultural
perspectives can be created."
FOR AN EXCERPT FROM THE SCHOOL OF VISUAL ARTS
"ART DISPLAY POLICY" (the entire policy addresses issues such
as safety and student responsibility as well) and  a statement of The Arts
Controversy Task Force click here