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.