College Expels Student For Sharing Explicit Artwork On Twitter

A college expelled an art student after they shared explicit anime to Twitter that the school deemed could pose as sexual harassment.

By Erika Hanson | Published

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art student

Art is subjective. It is a medium for expression, and therefore can be wildly perceived in many different ways. Some art can be viewed as vulgar and explicit, and to others, it could be an intonation of something beautiful. But when, and where is the line drawn for what’s appropriate or not, especially in a school setting? One college decided that on their own, as they expelled an art student for sharing explicit drawings on social media. 

Ash Mikkelsen was set to attend the Kansas City Art Institute (KCAI) this upcoming fall, enrolling as an art student. But before he could even step into his first class, the school kicked him out and furthermore barred him from ever re-enrolling at the college. The decision was made after the school discovered graphic anime cartoon drawings on a Twitter account shared by Ash. Now, the civil liberties group, FIRE is advocating for the college student and calling for the school to reverse its decision. 

It all started after a pseudonymous account was revealed to be run by the art student by another KCAI enrollee. He was reported to school administrators, who investigated the claims and felt it was plausible to take such swift action and expel Ash. FIRE alleges that the school based its decision by stating that the Japanese-style pictures that were retweeted could have represented sexual harassment, and may have led to a hostile learning environment, despite the fact that this account was run under a fictitious name and was in no way connected to the school. Since the incident, the Twitter account has been taken down either by the company or someone else. 

FIRE, an acronym for The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, acts as a non-profit organization advocating for the rights of free speech on college campuses. Unlike many other activist organizations, FIRE leaves politics at the door, and fights for the rights of all individuals who are found to be censored by schools for one reason or another. Sabrina Conza, a program officer with the organization expressed her anger at the school’s outlandish decision, calling it an overreach of the school’s rights and reminding KCAI that artistic expression has long been considered offensive to some, which doesn’t in turn justify the school’s decision to remove the art student. 

Ash Mikkelsen is now being represented by a FIRE legal network attorney to appeal the institute’s decision. This story of this art student isn’t unique, as freedom of artistic expression has long been criticized and questioned. Recently, a college art teacher found herself in a similar situation after she allowed her class to pose topless for a project. 

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Freedom of expression and education walk a fine line between what’s appropriate and not for art students. Some might call these findings similar to the demands from parents attempting to remove books from schools with passages deemed graphic in nature. But Ash Mikkelsen’s situation is much different than others, and the college student simply wants to be able to freely share what he has deemed favorable art, on his personal social media, without having to worry about whether or not schools will find it to be a reason to justify banning individuals from college campuses.