Shellyne Rodriguez (photo by Argenis Apolinario, courtesy the artist)

Hundreds of artists, scholars, and cultural figures have signed a petition expressing solidarity with former Hunter College adjunct professor Shellyne Rodriguez and condemning institutions’ “callow punitive response” to the recent right-wing attacks on the artist. In late May, Hunter fired Rodriguez after she was filmed threatening a reporter of the right-wing tabloid the New York Post, who appeared at her Bronx home unannounced seeking an interview about her confrontation with anti-abortion activists on campus earlier that month. The School of Visual Arts (SVA), where Rodriguez has taught classes, also terminated the artist a few days later.

“The craven hypocrisy of these self-described progressive institutions exposes the emptiness of their articulated commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion,” reads the petition, led by a committee of supporters of Rodriguez including Sarah Schulman, Chloë Bass, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, and Alicia Grullón. “In the face of racist, homophobic attacks, Hunter and SVA failed to stand by a beloved professor, and their stated values.”

The petition text is appended in its entirety at the end of this article along with a complete list of more than 600 signatories so far, among them scholars Ariella Aïsha Azoulay, Arlene Dávila, and Fred Moten and artists Xaviera Simmons, Dread Scott, Nari Ward, Guadalupe Maravilla, and many others. The letter is continuing to gather signatures.

Rodriguez was the target of a sustained harassment campaign for weeks after she confronted anti-choice activists tabling at Hunter College on May 2. A clip of the encounter showed the artist accusing members of Students for Life of America of misinformation and disheveling their table display, which included rubber fetus models and printed postcards. The clip was widely circulated on right-wing platforms and drew an onslaught of violent and hateful emails, text messages, and voicemails against the artist, including physical threats and racial and gender slurs.

It was against the backdrop of these threats that reporter Reuven Fenton and a documentation crew from the New York Post visited Rodriguez’s place of residence in the Bronx on Tuesday, May 23. According to Rodriguez, Fenton and his team accessed her building without using the intercom system and pounded on her door unannounced. After warning Fenton to get away from her door, Rodriguez opened the door and brought a machete blade up to Fenton’s neck. Another video circulated by the Post showed Rodriguez appearing to follow the journalists outside of the building. In a statement shared with Hyperallergic, Rodriguez said she feared for her physical safety.

No injuries were reported. In an interview with Fox News after the incident, Fenton said he “really and truly didn’t believe in [his] heart …. that she was going to hurt me.”

Shortly thereafter, Rodriguez was dismissed from her adjunct role at Hunter College, which stated that it “strongly condemns the unacceptable actions of Shellyne Rodriguez.” A few days later, SVA announced it would not renew the artist’s contract. Rodriguez turned herself in to the 43rd Precinct in the Bronx on Thursday, May 25, and was released from custody on the same day; she faces charges of menacing and harassment.

Shellyne Rodriguez, “BICOPs on the Third of May” (2022), color pencil on paper, 39 1/2 x 46 inches (image courtesy PPOW)

The recent petition denounces the schools’ decisions to terminate Rodriguez “without further inquiry” and points to an exploitative dynamic between universities and adjunct faculty, whose employment status is notoriously precarious. It also urges universities to adopt harassment response and prevention plans, as encouraged by groups such as Faculty First Responders, to support academic workers persecuted by the right.

“Both Hunter and SVA traffic in the cachet of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Queer, and Trans adjuncts,” the petition reads. “That they simultaneously exploit and decline to stand up for us is galling.”

The letter concludes with a quote by author, civil rights activist, and Hunter College graduate Audre Lorde from her 1983 essay “There Is No Hierarchy of Oppressions,” in which she admonished: “And when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.” The Hunter College campus crossroads at 68th Street and Lexington Avenue was renamed Audre Lorde Way last year.

The petition is one of several recent statements in support of Rodriguez. More than 1,200 scholars, artists, and cultural figures, including students, alumni, and faculty affiliated with Hunter College and other City University of New York (CUNY) schools, signed an open letter of solidarity published by a coalition known as FEAS Frente Hermanas Amor y Solidaridad. Students in the Studio Art MFA program at Hunter College, where Rodriguez taught, also released a statement. In early May, as the recording of Rodriguez confronting the anti-abortion group circulated, CUNY’s own abortion rights coalition organized a petition of support on her behalf. A committee of artists and educators launched a GoFundMe fundraiser for Rodriguez that has raised $22,000 of its $30,000 goal.

Read the Artists in Solidarity petition in full, followed by a list of current signatories, below.

I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood…my silences had not protected me. Your silences won’t protect you. – Audre Lorde

We, undersigned cultural workers, voice our outrage at the pernicious attacks on artists, scholars and educators, who are/fight for women, queer and trans people, Black and Indigenous people, disabled people and immigrants. We repudiate the silence, inaction and active betrayal of institutions that would sacrifice their integrity rather than their funding. We watch, mortified, as universities relinquish storied histories of political courage in favor of a callow punitive response to recent right-wing criticism of artist and educator Shellyne Rodriguez.

Prompted by concerned students, Rodriguez confronted a group distributing anti-choice propaganda on Hunter College campus. Her interaction with the nationally-organized group was being handled internally by Hunter when right-wing media fomented a wildly disproportionate public response, focusing on Rodriguez’s identity as a queer, Black, Latinx woman. Her phone and home address were publicly disclosed. She was deluged with racist, homophobic threats, facilitated in no small part by Hunter’s failure to publicly defend her. After a highly publicized confrontation with NY Post reporters who had, unannounced and unidentified, accosted her at her home, Hunter College and the School of Visual Arts terminated her without further inquiry. The craven hypocrisy of these self-described progressive institutions exposes the emptiness of their articulated commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion. In the face of racist, homophobic attacks, Hunter and SVA failed to stand by a beloved professor, and their stated values. 

The vast majority of professional artists are teaching artists, an economic dynamic from which schools such as Hunter and SVA benefit greatly. They boast of us in promotional materials; they celebrate, but also bask, in the glow of our successes. They profit from our reputations, while offering few protections and no job security. Both Hunter and SVA traffic in the cachet of Black, Latinx, Indigenous, Queer, and Trans adjuncts. That they simultaneously exploit and decline to stand up for us is galling. Artists and targeted groups are historically among the first to defend free thought. It should be the shared responsibility of the universities to defend not only spaces of learning, but also those who shepherd that learning.

Attacks on targeted identity groups are always also attacks on culture, art, and the spaces where the creative and the intellectual flourish. Banning Black history books and criminalizing drag are but the most recent object lessons in such thought policing, but they are far from the first. In Republican lawmaker’s call to defund CUNY we hear echoes of Jesse Helms’ 1989 call to defund the NEA. And what we should have learned in 1989 is that what is required of public institutions in the face of such attacks is not moral panic, but intellectual honesty, ethical fortitude, and a vigorous defense of the possibility of a unique perspective, however despised or marginalized. 

One year ago, Hunter College renamed a corner of its main campus after Black Lesbian poet laureate Audre Lorde. In her spirit we demand our universities defend artists and educators who speak against the vile attacks on all of our freedoms. We demand our universities adopt measures and create a Harassment Response and Prevention Plan to support members of their faculy when under right wing attacks. As Audre has repeatedly warned us, “… when they appear to destroy me, it will not be long before they appear to destroy you.”

Signatures as of June 9, 2023:

Wendy Olsoff
American Artist
Daniela grande
Omar Berrada
Turiya Adkins
Léopold Lambert
Alicia Grullón
Maria Hupfield
Eva Peskin
Charles de Agustin
Ruth N. Figueroa Couvertier
Aden Weisel
Alexandria Smith
Scott Campbell
Danielle de Jesus
Lisa Banta
Natalie Eddings
Ariella Aïsha Azoulay
Sam Vernon
Marina Reyes Franco
kiara ocasio
Joiri Minaya
Sonya Irsay
Larry Ossei-Mensah
César Barros A.
Corey Durbin
Blake Paskal
Nizan Shaked
Jordany Genao
Anastasiya Tarasenko
Gabriel Garcia Roman
Josh Hubi
Karen “KayLove” Pedrosa
Shivangi Mariam Raj
Xayvier Haughton
Cesar Kastro
Michelle Rosenberg
echo Eraso
Patrício Morocho
Suneil Sanzgiri
gregory sholette
Alex Dolores Salerno
Samantha Medina
Milton X. Trujillo
Kadiatou Coulibaly
Eden Deering
Eddie Arroyo
Laura Suárez Rodríguez
Jay Lineberry
Emma Quaytman
Mike Tully
Paula Stuttman
Susanne Fredricks
Michele Fiedler
Harry Burke
Sofía Gallisá Muriente
Stephanie Goodalle
Nathaniel Mothing
Kandis Friesen
Ja’Tovia Gary
Cindy Hwang
Ashara Ekundayo
Magdalena Aleman
Lukaza Branfman-Verissimo
Gina Goico
Terence Washington
Xaviera Simmons
Chloë Baas
Elizabeth Glaessner
Yara Travieso
charles theonia
Grace Carney
Morehshin Allahyari
Rebecca Goyette
Mirene Arsanios
Jeannette Rodriguez Pineda
Catalina Schliebener Muñoz
Sarah Schulman
Gabo Camnitzer
Grimaldi Baez
Sophia Hussain
Shane Aslan Selzer
Mary white
Gabriela Rassi
Nari Ward
Suneela Mubayi
Taylor Renee Aldridge
Matthew Schrader
William Powhida
Jan Descartes
Michael Rakowitz
Camilo Guinot
Jessica Kwok
Andrea Raymond
Bill Martin
Alina Tenser
Emily Leach
Eleanor Whitney
Alaina Simone
imogen xtian smith
cassandra mayela
Sara Jane Stoner
Maya Strohmeier
diane enobabor
Ben Nortey
Francheska Alcántara
Mimi Bai
Christina Barrera
Adam Breaux
Zeus Fontaine
Ana Villagomez
Trey Hollis
Ian Epps
Megan Hicks
Dana DeGiulio
mary sabbatino
Cynthia Mulcahy
katrina toimil
misael soto
Layal ftouni
Alicia Gallant
Pamela Echeverria
Tara Long
Johnica Rivers
Eriola Pira
Christopher Rivera
Ariana Faye Allensworth
Zelene Suchilt
Polina Tereshina
Mark Tribe
Asari Aibangbee
Andrea Chung
Sebastien Sanz de Santamaria
Melinda Griffith
Dawn Weleski
T Eliott Mansa
Eva Mayhabal Davis
Ben Durham
Whitney McGuire
Kevin Arrow
Erica Baum
Anna Goraczko
Asha Tamirisa
KP Peralta, Social Work Student and former Graphic Designer
Beatriz Santiago Muñoz
Christopher Archer
Jay katelansky
Regina Bresler
Suni Mullen
Kazem Ghouchani
Samia Labidi
Gerald Lovell
Zalika U. Ibaorimi
Xenia Diente
Karen Leader
Neen Rivera
Calvin Burton
Natalia Lassalle Morillo
Jean Seestadt
Arlene Davila
Olivia Peace
Cecilia Caldiera
Anneliis Beadnell
Megan Westgate
Katie Fuller
Amorelle Jacox
Odalys Burgoa
Claudia Peña Salinas
Elise Rasmussen
Ginevra Shay
Kency Cornejo
Kaitlyn Greenidge
Edward Frumkin
Daisy Ruiz
Patrick Rowe
Karina Valdivieso
Meghana Karnik
Christine Howard Sandoval
Elizabeth Axtman
Lizania Cruz
Andrea Cauthen
Amirtha Kidambi
Lauren Anderson
Alexis Cheung
Sara Bodinson
Valeri Larko
Amy Sinclair
Brianne (Kennedy) Redfield
Odessa Warren
Andreas Petrossiants
Elliot Josephine Leila Reichert
Marela Zacarias
Ranee Henderson
Niki Reiner
Vladimir Cybil Charlier
Maria Guzman
Aurash Khawarzad
RJ Messineo
Leonardo Aranda
Teresa Basilio
Adam Tetzloff
Marina Christodoulidou
Allentza Michel
Carolyn Edgar
Brett Wallace
Dread Scott
Julia Justo
Prerana Reddy
Abelardo Cruz Santiago
B Andrade
Sarah Ema Friedland
Hennesy Sánchez
Rotem Linial
Devin Malone
Jen Ayres
Nora Akawi
Jesse Chun
Theresa Ganz
William Carter
Estefania Trujillo Preciado
Sasha Bush
Lee Painter-Kim
Nikki Myers
Olalekan Jeyifous
Lee Gilmore
Megan Heuer
Eric Patel
Marz Jupiter
Sara Mokuria
Dubravka Sekulić
Stephanie Mota
Kyle Goen
Marco Lanier
Dan Jonas-Roche
Sami Abu Shumays
Kathryn-kay Johnson
Nataša Prljević
Oluremi C. Onabanjo
nadia misir
Michael Vass
Daniel May
Nelson Fernandez
Kat Herriman
Juliana Cerqueira Leite
Dylan Prince
Constance Collier-Mercado
Ana Tuazon
Samir Harb
Sophia Garcia
Niama Safia Sandy
Kelly Long
Carrie Hawks
Alan Ruiz
Corrina Peipon
Luis Camnitzer
Alexander Chee
Asaru Che
Keli Safia Maksud
Sophia Williams
Michelle Lisa Polissaint
Theresa Sterner
Daniela Castillo
Ramdasha Bikceem
Beverly Acha
Deyanira Ruiz
Mildred Beltre
Laura Y. Liu
Lise Ragbir
Hilary Devaney
Khari Johnson-Ricks
Asia Robinson
Paige Haran
Tamara Santibañez
Richard Nelson
Cody umans
Joel Garcia
Justin Mugits
Sarah Chappell
Sasha Wortzel
Juan Sánchez
Sara Shaoul
Manuel Acevedo
Maya Shah
Rashawna Wilson
Jaishri Abichandani
Sunny Vazquez
Jessilee Shipman
Brittany Miller
Sahar Carter
Ella Blanchon
Robert A. McCann
Liah Paterson
Bonafide Rojas
skye tafoya
Nari Kim
Ryan Quinney
Philo Cohen
Sophie Grant
Judit Kis
Victoria Anne Reis
Lucas Kane
GaHee Park
Jeremy Hill
Kirk H.
Angela Wharton
Zach Trow
Allison Abdallah
Neelam Chhara
Deni Espinoza
Leah Lewis
Natasha Marie Llorens
Jordan Leonard
Vanessa Thill
Meghann Gilligan
Rachel Schragis
Jake Davidson
Carlos Manuel Hernandez
Michelle Luong
Carina Umanzor
Katherine Toukhy
Kathryn Gorson
Lynx Zacarias
Maxx Wade
jenny dubnau
Memphis Washington
Cristina Ferrigno
Jay Warman
Dena Paige Fischer
Lucía Egaña Rojas
Caroline Kern
Mahogany L. Browne
Priscilla Grim
Mew Filsinger
River Bullock
Pol Morton
David Giannetti
Erin Johnson
Lori Salmon
Anna Lustberg
Joseph Liatela
Jennifer Brennan
Zoe Alexander
Kelly Neibert
Kim Nam
Sofia Reeser
Jasmine Wahi
Althea James
Emily Lopez
Gray Eliz
Carmel Dor
Rose Salseda
Sarah Watson
Khadijah Queen
jehdy ann vargas
Victoria Shaheen
May Braaten
Kavita Rajanna
Kiersten Fellrath
Rachael Abrams
Lara Fresko Madra
Rolando Andre Lopez Torres
Adam Sekuler
Amra causevic
J Dylan
Saar Shemesh
Moni Aviles
Ashley James
Anthony Cudahy
Linda Vigdor
Lyn Liu
SiSi Chen
Elizabeth Cutler
Alisha Verma
Carrie McGee
Saisha Grayson
RJ Ward
Patrisha kritchman
Nereida Patricia
Gabriel Hernandez Solano
Olivia Gauthier
Alex LeGrys
DJ Tikka Masala
Thenjiwe Niki Nkosi
Fernando Isaí
Georgia Henkle
Teresa Castro
Eduardo Rega Calvo
Roberto Mozzachiodi
Odalis Valdivieso
Alina Ruiz Folini
Saim Demircan
Franco Berardi
siddhartha lokanandi
Daniel Kapp
Carolyn F Strauss
Iman Ganji
Kimberly Becoat
Lexa Walsh
Marquita Flowers
Janos Cseh
Helena Hounie
Nicole Mouriño
Josie Roland Hodson
Nakai Falcón
Wray White
Francesco Gattuso
Ronald Wimberly
Sharon De La Cruz
Ezra Benus
Imani Wilson
Adam HajYahia
Opal Mae Ong
N Kern
Justin O’Brien
Jeffrey Melo
Khaska Dottin
Scout Perry
Edward Salas
Lily Wong
SA Smythe
Eri King
Sasha Hill
Amira Pierce
Ivy Garcia
Chris Berntsen
Emmy Catedral
Amanda Brown
Fred Moten
Adeshola Makinde
Jennifer Dalton
stanley wolukau-wanambwa
Mary Valverde
Andrew Weiner
Aaliyah Reyes
Shannon O’Neill
Tessa Morefield
Amy Wilson
lauren woods
Marco DaSilva
Tyler Roarty
Malanya Graham
Julia Colletes
Nicholas DiCarlo
Carol Li
Alexander Homan
Cait Carouge
Melissa Sáenz gordon
Laura Marte
Lenny Correa
Margot Norton
Paul Pfeiffer
Abou Farman
Winnie Qiu
Alexandra Finger
Fabian Jean
Jacq Groves
David Borgonjon
Camila Palomino
Alexa Punnamkuzhyil
Vlad Gurewich
Anthony Hawley
Rachel Malin
Laura Weinthal
Covey Gong
William Camargo
Lisa Hofmann-Kuroda
Wen Peguero
Isabel Alicia Baptista
Aviella Holle
Maggie Fitzpatrick
Sofia Mariyamis
Emily uruchima
Olivia DiVecchia
nadia waheed
Fatin Abbas
Noah Brehmer
Adrienne Catedral
Lucas Berthou
Samuel Jones
Charlotte Woolf
Dr. Shelagh Patterson
Tyler Coburn
Tamen Perez
Curtis Miller
Tess Derby
Georgia Lale
Paige Strockis
Alexandria Ryahl
Nicole Goodwin
Ben Balcom
David Axtman
Sylver Shread
Xinan ran
Jordan Ramsey Ismaiel
Michelle Santiago Cortes
Sabrina Mendoza Malavé
Caroline Boreri
Megan Starbird
TJ Shin
Victoria Hristoff
Samuel Partal
Emma Linstone
Lovely Umayam
Rachell Morillo
Johanna Robinson
Izzy Dow
Olivia de Guzman
Noah Simblist
Armando Cabba
Tiffany Joy Butler
T linstone
Rachel Hill
Margaret kircher
Maya yadid
Sophia Cleary
Jess Willa Wheaton
anita osorio
Dawn Delikat
Matilde Benmayor
Benjamin Fenton
Sean Haskins
Kairy Herrera
Paul-Sebastian Japaz
Christian Weber
Elena Muñoz-Rodriguez
Amy Bravo
Ada Pinkston
Portia Munson
Abigail DeVille
Dr. Dylan Rodríguez
Kimberli Gant
Nicole Eisenman
Rory Gill-Smith
e mclaughlin
Sara Lopez
Carol Zou
Laura Wynne
Jakeli Swimmer
Linda SerroneRolon
Solana Chehtman
Jennifer Ifil-Ryan
Perri Cohl Hofmann
Leslie Fritz
Sascha Craven
Charlotte Van Kemmel
Joy Davis
Heba Malaeb
maggie beasley
Melissa Calderon
Emma Hughes
Lauren Halsey
Sunshine Jenkins
Jennifer Hopkins
Curtis Rumrill
Sunita Prasad
Michelle Borok
D Miller
Benjamin Anastas
Mallory Breiner
Matt Blackwell
Alhena Katsof
Clara Fialho
Carolyn Hall
Coralina Rodriguez Meyer
Anna Rosen
Torey Akers
Dr. Laurel Jay Carpenter
Malik Gaines
Keith LeBlanc
Danielle Orchard
Woki massaquoi
Linda Ganjian
Ian Hinonangan
Karen Codd
Molmol kuo
Elizabeth Antoon-Walsh
Clarinda Mac Low
Amira Brown
Severn Eaton
Josa Goodlife
Nadja Oertelt
Sam Wilson
Heidi Howard
Jessica Miller
Josephine Shokrian
Nathan Alexander Moore
Lyndsay Knecht
Laura Heyman
Sonia D’Alto
Ara H. Merjian
Blanche Brown
Sara Maria Salamone
Paul Chan
Zoey Lubitz
Josh MacPhee
Rachel Harrison
Marina Vishmidt
John Ellen
Trisha Lagaso Goldberg
mary oleary
Christina Dixcy
Alexander John Sebastian Cavaluzzo
Zach Feuer
Caroline Gil
Elizabeth Hoy
Vivian Crockett
Michele Cannon
Megan Zoeller
Mimi Chrzanowski
Winona Packer
Guadalupe Mota
Marshall Ransfield
Natalie evans
Lindsey Strong
Cheryl Pappas
Heather Davis
Cheyenne Gauthier
Ella Blanchon
Emma Hurme
Stephanie Acosta
Clara Cruz
Theodore Lau
Joeonna Bellorado-Samuels
Shani Peters
Joseph Cuillier
Alvaro barrington
Lucy Mercado
Augustine Blaisdell
Hana van der Kolk, PhD
Aaron Landsman
Mónica Palma
Devon Howell
Eleanor King
Meli Sanfiorenzo
Ashley Johnson
Theo Haegele
Sohail Daulatzai
Nataša Prljević
Guadalupe Maravilla
Yahya M. Madra
Aruna D’Souza
Holly Warren

Valentina Di Liscia is the News Editor at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...