Within a few weeks of starting my new position at the University at Buffalo, a graduate art student posted “White only” and “Black only” signs on the campus. Though the student, Ashley Powell, claimed she was exercising free speech and artistic expression, many students were alarmed and called the university police. The university’s response, which has emphasized the importance of intellectual freedom, has been criticized and the subject of a peaceful protest during President Satish Tripathi’s annual State of the University address on Oct 9.
Here you can find my letter to the editor of the UB Spectrum (UB’s student newspaper), dated last week, asking, “What if Ashley Powell’s controversial art project had been research?” I explore the concepts of external review, informed consent, and debriefing. These concepts validate the outraged responses of students who feel they were experimented on without their permission.