Challenges to books occasionally occur in academic libraries, but artwork is a more frequent target of challenges in academic libraries. I recently interviewed John Harer, an associate professor of library science at East Carolina University. In the 1990s he was working at Texas A&M when students launched a complaint about a piece of artwork that was hanging near the entrance of the library.
Politics in the classroom isn’t new, but it does feel different this year. The violence in Charlottesville coincided with the back to school rush, and our nation’s violent partisan reality looms as a silent force in many teachers’ and students’ minds.
Free speech on a college campus is a form of public engagement. And public engagement is always a challenge. Ask any of the professors named above. A good response is to sharpen your game and be ready.
Peg Johnson, the library director at Santa Fe Community College, explains how she worked to change the campus’ policy on filtering content on the library’s computers.
Trigger warnings, initially designed to give advance notice of content potentially detrimental to those who have suffered trauma, have made their way into everyday situations and become code for ‘stuff that may be offensive or upsetting.’
The decision to pull all of the yearbooks smacks of viewpoint discrimination. Justice William Brennan in his dissent on Hazelwood v Kuhlmeier warned that the decision to protect students from controversial or sensitive topics is actually “camouflage” for viewpoint discrimination: “Even in its capacity as educator the State may not assume an Orwellian ‘guardianship of the public mind.”
The latest controversy over Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, brought on by proposed legislation from Arkansas State Rep. Kim Hendren, is at an end. The bill died in committee, so Zinn — and everything by or about him — is still allowed (by state law anyway) in Arkansas public school curricula.
Institutions of higher education are seeing an increasing number of challenges to the principles of academic freedom that have seemingly been embedded in higher education since the establishment of American universities … This notion, however, that academic freedom has always existed in academic institutions in the United States is inaccurate.
On the EPA’s website of the Office of Science and Technology, the word ‘science’ has been removed from its mission statement. At the University Of California San Diego, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Michigan, scientists are voicing their concerns about their ability to do their jobs threatened with draconian budget cuts at the Federal level, and the specter of vanishing data sets in Federal repositories. Neither has become a reality, but awareness and action are needed on both fronts.
Government officials charged with overseeing public education may frame these attempts at censorship in terms of their pedagogical responsibilities, so it is important to see how these attempts differ from the appropriate use of responsible selection by professional educators and librarians.