SOU responds to fish
By Jennifer Nitson
Southern Oregon University officials put
graduation preparations on the back burner today to respond to
concerns over goldfish dying in an art exhibit.
SOU administrators are addressing the growing
local media frenzy surrounding the use of "feeder" fish in an
art exhibit at the Schneider Museum on campus.
Animal rights activist Barbara Rosen escalated
her protest this week by donning a yellow fish costume and
imitating a dying fish in front of the museum and
administrative offices at SOU's Churchill Hall. Rosen has
spent the last several weeks protesting the art exhibit,
holding a sign at various locations of campus reading "Stop
the fish torture."
Her dramatization attracted increased media
attention to Rosen's cause - with two local television news
crews video-taping Rosen's theatrical activism Tuesday.
In a statement issued by the university today,
"ongoing modifications" made to increase the goldfish lifespan
are outlined, including cleaning the fishbowls on a daily
rather than weekly basis, housing the fish in an aerated tank
on the weekend when the museum is closed, and increased fish
monitoring by artist and SOU adjunct professor Shawn
"An animal rights protester has incorrectly
stated that the purpose of the exhibit is for the fish to
die," the university's statement said, adding Busse's "Heaven
and Earth, 2003" installment is based on the theologian John
Edward's writings about the fallibility of man.
Moreover, SOU officials said "the issue has
been sensationalized by comments about 'death chambers' and
'internment camps.' The implication that fish are being
intentionally mistreated or killed is inappropriate and
In addition to talking to an Oregon Department
of Fish and Wildlife representative, SOU biologist Michael
Parker was called in to assess the health and care of the fish
used in the exhibit.
"It's amazing how much time this has taken
up," Parker said.
Parker believes the goldfish are being
properly cared for, with appropriate aquariums, clean water,
"One of the things that happens when you raise
fish in a dense population is they often get fungal
infections," Parker said. "There was no mishandling of those
fish whatsoever. It's an unfortunate effect of how they're
being raised and how they were being handled by the fish
Kathryn Bazylewicz, director of marketing and
public relations for SOU, said this morning no university
funds have been spent on the fish welfare assessments.
For Rosen, the measures are not enough.
"The measures they're talking about are better
than nothing but they won't pacify me because the fish are
still in there," Rosen said. "I want the fish taken
According to SOU custodian and fellow fish
protester David McAlaster, the goldfish body count continues
"I saw approximately four bodies this morning,
two of which are still alive because the gills are going,"
McAlaster said today.
"I'm really concerned about the suffering of
those fish in those circumstances," he said, adding that some
fish are being sucked onto the intake valve in the tank in the
back room. "It seems to me to be a very uncomfortable way to
Busse said he is surprised at all the fuss
over his installation.
"I definitely never expected this much
attention," Busse said. "But, you know, if it gets people into
the museum, that's OK, I guess. I have to respect people that
have convictions and I have to respect that people have
beliefs even if I don't agree with them."