Greenville, N.C. — A student-run arts magazine at East Carolina University is raising eyebrows over its decision to publish nude photos in its latest issue.
The student-fee-funded Expressions printed six full-page photos, some of full-frontal nudity, as part of its Dec. 6 issue of stories, essays artwork and poems exploring the theme "Hidden in Plain Sight."
The photos depict a man and a woman showing what the photographer describes as an unattractive "mark" that's "representative of those things people keep hidden every day."
"The goal of this project was to expose the societal fear of vulnerability hiding in plain sight," an explanation accompanying the photos reads. "People in American society cover their natural appearance with clothes, accessories and make-up. By removing those items, complete and natural beauty remains."
The magazine's general manager, sophomore Micah Lockhart, said the decision to include the images in the latest issue was the result of exhaustive discussion with faculty advisors.
"We wanted to create this sort-of molded element that all attributed to one idea," he said. "If you disagree with me, let's have a conversation. I didn't do this for any – there was no mal-intent. I did this for an artistic purpose to show something to illustrate an idea."
Virginia Hardy, vice chancellor of student affairs, said in a statement Thursday that ECU supports "the intellectual freedom of our students" and says measures were taken in the magazine to alert readers about the nature of the photos.
"In this instance, our Expressions staff and advisors went through a broad, rigorous and clearly defined decision process," Hardy said. "They used specific criteria to make an informed decision. As part of that process, students and staff decided to place multiple warnings in the publication to alert readers about the content."
“We understand people view material including human nudity in widely varied ways, and that might be the case with this issue of Expressions," she continued. "Some will view the content in the context of art, and others may not."
Student opinion is mixed, and it's ignited a debate over freedom of speech.
"It's like pornography, pretty much," first-year student Kayleigh Fadero said.
"I think students should be able to publish whatever they want to publish," sophomore Blake Osborn said.
Nudity in student-run publications isn't new.
Last November, the university's newspaper, "The East Carolinian" ran on its front page an uncensored photo of a streaker at a Pirates football game.
The university fired its student media faculty adviser two months later.
While not addressing the newspaper photo, the university said Thursday that the photos in Expressions are different, because of the subject matter.
"The Expressions staff believes when this section is viewed in context of theme and with the written supporting pieces that this is tastefully and artfully presented," the university said in a statement.