U. of Michigan instructor calls for removal of illustration of decapitated athletics director

MICHIGAN — After a student publication at the University of Michigan published a photo illustration featuring the athletic director’s disembodied head, an instructor is calling for its removal.

The illustration in The Michigan Review, an independent student publication, accompanied a story about students protesting the athletic director and the athletic department’s handling of a head injury quarterback Shane Morris sustained during Michigan’s Sept. 28 loss to Minnesota. The illustration showed Athletic Director Dave Brandon’s head superimposed onto an image of a beheading during the French Revolution.

“With current events about ISIS, drawing Brandon decapitated is violent & wrong,” Kai Petainen, an adjunct finance lecturer at UM, tweeted at the newspaper. “Remove it.”

Petainen also included the campus police on the tweet. The Review’s editor, Derek Draplin, invited Petainen to submit a letter to the editor about his concerns.

On Sept. 30, hundreds of students protested how Brandon and the athletic department handled the injury: by putting Morris back in the game after a vicious hit. The students gathered on the campus quad and marched to University President Mark Schlissel’s house, and some were chanting “fire Brandon” and holding signs that criticized the athletic director’s past decisions, The Review reported.

Draplin said the student protest had a “mob mentality,” which made him think of the French Revolution. The illustration was meant to be political satire “mocking the students” because they were “in a sense calling for his head and calling for his job,” he said.

“You’re certainly welcome to say what you want, do what you want. I just thought it was insensitive” because of recent ISIS beheadings, Petainen said.

“We’re not seeing images of French Revolution popping up, we’re seeing images of ISIS,” he said. “This is more of a poor editorial decision that seems to lack common sense.”

Draplin said he was surprised Petainen included the campus police in the tweet. Petainen said he included them in the tweet because, as a university employee, he is supposed to notify the police if he sees “questionable things” around campus.

The article and illustration will run in The Review’s print edition next week.

SPLC staff writer Anna Schiffbauer can be reached by email or at (703) 807-1904 ext. 127.