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American U Will Remove Statue of Leonard Peltier

January 3, 2017

American University announced Monday that it will remove a large statue of Leonard Peltier from outside its art museum. Peltier is a Native American activist who was convicted of murder in the shooting deaths of two Federal Bureau of Investigation agents in a 1975 incident at the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Many Native American activists have long maintained -- backed by groups such as Amnesty International -- that Peltier did not receive a fair trial and was convicted unfairly. Some of those activists have been promoting the statue to draw attention to their campaign to have President Obama grant clemency to Peltier, but law enforcement groups have been criticizing American University for letting the statue be so visible on campus.

In a statement, the university said in part, "The decision to host the Peltier statue required a more thorough assessment of the implications of placing the piece in a prominent, public space outside the museum. With the benefit of a fuller review, we have made a decision to remove the piece from this location. The subject matter and placement of the piece improperly suggested that American University has assumed an advocacy position of clemency for Mr. Peltier, when no such institutional position has been taken. Further, the nature and location of the piece called into question our ability to honor our responsibilities to ensure the security of the art and the safety of our community."

The artist who created the sculpture goes by the name Rigo 23. He condemned American University's decision in an interview with WUSA 9 News. "My reaction is one of sadness and disbelief," Rigo 23 said. "What the director of the art center told me is the Fox News item unleashed the crazies, and the crazies are threatening the university."

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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