Two professors at Montana State University at Bozeman are facing a libel lawsuit filed by three students who say they were publicly humiliated when they were depicted as “foolish weasels” in a painting created by one of the professors, the Associated Press reported today. At the time the painting was hung in the campus’s art-and-architecture building, the students were among a group of six accused of cheating on an assignment by the other professor.
The students were subsequently exonerated, but that didn’t stop them from seeking redress for libel, malice, invasion of privacy, and negligence. The lawyer for the professors said the creation and display of the painting, titled “Six Foolish Weasels and Two Puffed-Up Suits,” was a clear-cut issue of free speech. The students’ lawyer said the First Amendment was not intended to allow public humiliation. His clients are seeking unspecified damages. Professorial pelts, perhaps?