The administration at Crafton Hills College, a community college in Yucaipa, CA, recently denied a student’s request to remove what she considered objectionable material from a college course on graphic novels. After enrolling in the course and purchasing her books, Tara Schultz was surprised to learn that some of the titles included mature material. “I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography, ” she told the (RDF). The four books on the syllabus she found objectionable included: Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin, 2006); Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1, by Brian Vaughan (Vertigo, 2003); The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House, by Neil Gaiman (1990, DC Comics); and Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon, 2004).
The course professor, Ryan Bartlett, defended his choice of these books:
“I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course, not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition, ” he told the RDF. “The course in question has also been supported by the faculty [and] administration and approved by the board.”
Schultz and her parents spoke to the college administration to protest the material. Their ideal outcome, they stated, was to have the books removed from all class syllabi and the school bookstore—but if that were not possible they wanted to be sure students would be aware of the potentially objectionable content before purchasing. “At least get a warning on the books, ” Shultz told the RDF. “At most I would like the books eradicated from the system. I don’t want them taught anymore. I don’t want anyone else to have to read this garbage.”
Although Crafton Hills College instructors are required to distribute a syllabus listing the material covered in class on the first day of the term, Schultz did not raise her objections to the books until after the January 30 deadline to drop the class. According to the RDF, she “chose to remain in the class to avoid receiving a zero.”
NO WARNING NECESSARY
Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the American Library Association (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom feels that warnings regarding content unfairly influence readers. “Librarians have always had a concern with labeling that tends to prejudice a reader against a book, ” she said. “We shouldn’t need labels that say something might be offensive because someone said so. Everyone is free to close a book at any time.”
Charles Brownstein of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization defending free speech in the comic book medium, agreed that such warnings are unnecessary, and perhaps students like Schultz should have done more research on the content of the course. “There are already sufficient mechanisms in place for customers, parents, and students to make informed decisions about the material they choose to read, ” he told LJ. This type of objection is more common in a K-12 setting, Brownstein said, and is rare at the college level.
You might also like: