Banned Books Week is All About Higher Education

Wesleyan University in Connecticut is in the midst of a controversy about its student newspaper. The controversy is about free speech, on the one hand, and race, on the other hand. There are likely more hands to this complex issue than even Kali has. The issue is embedded in the repeated presence of certain kinds of behaviors on college campuses, the structures of history that make speech more free for some than others, the place of student newspapers on college campuses, and much much more.

Why am I raising this in a discussion of Banned Books Week?

Because colleges are not exempt from the topic -- they (we) are not isolated ivory towers that never practice censorship. This past summer, some Duke University freshmen refused to read an assigned text, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel and at least one student at Crafton College has called for banning the book. While not settled, there is ongoing debate about "trigger warnings" as well, which seeks to navigate the complex borderland of care for all and concern for censorship. Colleges and universities are not exempt.

Nor is Chicagoland, of course. Waukegan, formerly home to Shimer College (which is now at 35th and State in the city) knows this as the home, long ago, of author Ray Bradbury who wrote Fahrenheit 451 -- a book about burning books which has, ironically, been banned. And, as the place which, in 1984, removed The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn from its high school.

My own views regarding banned books are available here, in a video that seeks to address both censorship by commission and censorship that is less overt, namely that which comes from the exclusion of some voices in a way that is not even evident to those who are undertaking the excluding.

For another college president on related issues, click here. And, for those of you truly interested what college and university presidents think about the topic, see the Vonnegut Library's schedule for Banned Books Week, when many will have their say.See also today's Chronicle of Higher Education here.

In Chicago, though, check out the events at Galvin Library on the IIT Campus, including a Banned Book Read Out on October 1.



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  • Today's university is the last place I would think to look for open discussion and tolerance about books or anything else. They seem to be breeding grounds for fascists, mostly of the progressive/liberal or politically correct flavors.

    And most on campus, I am sure, have no clue as to who George Orwell was, but if the students discovered that he was an author who warned about the very dystopia that seems to be the goal of students and their teachers, even though he himself was a socialist, I am sure they would want him banned as well.

  • I think that in University as the social unit common rules play the main role. Therefore it means that no individual interest is accepted there. So if the student wants to research some topic which is not compatible with the policy of the University, he/she will need to do it separately using any research paper services from Otherwise their attempts will probably be banned. Basing on this statement, I have to say that free speech is really unclear world in Universities

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    Shimerprez is the 14th president of Shimer College at 35th and State. She also blogs at the Huffington Post and at a Shimer Blog called Evocations which can be found on line at She is a University of Chicago Ph.D. who works on religion, the social sciences, gender and sexuality. She reads murder mysteries, is fascinated by the world of food, and also loves the Finger Lakes Region of upstate New York.

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