The full apology:
Dear Vanderbilt Community,
I am the person who wrote “ARBEIT MACHT FREI” on the concrete wall near the bridge to Peabody campus. My intention was certainly not to advocate Nazi policies. Nor was this directed at Vanderbilt University. I am part of an art class that has been studying instances of public voice in art. The examples we looked at included controversial works from the African-American Civil Rights Movement, 60’s era France, communist Cuba and other sociopolitical movements throughout history. I had first encountered this phrase not long ago in debate I found posted on the internet. A man and a woman were discussing Feminism and the woman asserted that the right of a woman to work gave her more freedom. The man replied to the affect: “So you would say ‘work makes you free’? Why don’t you repeat that in German.” This was delivered as his final clinching point and I did not understand it at all. Searching to find out what he meant I discovered this phrase. I was interested in how this phrase has morphed throughout history starting as a sort of truism and appropriated by many other people and groups to finally arrive at its current connotation. That shocking instance of the phrase stuck in my head and I wanted to get people thinking and talking about the idea that work makes us free. I realize without additional context or explanation this phrase comes off very differently than I intended. Nor was this the ideal platform to have such a discussion. I am truly sorry for having offended my community.