Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Sid From Santa Fe Sends This In.

At my sprawling and poorly run community college, we have an abysmal student-run newspaper. It got shut down yesterday after its "sex" issue was published. There's been a fair amount of caterwauling internally, but our much more important and powerful (yet smaller) brother (a uni in the same city) has also taken up the charge.

Their student rag published this:
The took my sex issue away!
On Tuesday, Shitty Community College administrators, in a ruthless and authoritarian display of censorship, stripped students of some basic constitutional rights.
Tuesday’s issue of the weekly, student-run newspaper centered on sex. Staff members said their intention was to create a dialogue on the topic and educate students on safe practices. The administration didn’t see the value in this, and immediately suspended the staff and declared that it would halt publication until the summer. 
The college pulled Tuesday’s issue off the shelves and staff members said college representatives even pried the issue out of students’ hands if they saw them reading it. 
It goes without saying that this violates students’ rights to freedom of speech and of the press. [Our paper] enjoys complete editorial freedom, freedom that members of the University's Student Publications Board value and work hard to protect. I’ve decided that we at the [Our Paper] have a responsibility to use that freedom to make a statement in solidarity with the [Shitty Community College] staff. In that light, [Our Paper] will not publish any more printed issues of the newspaper until the Shitty Community College administration agrees to reinstate Shitty Community College staff members to their former positions at the paper and allow the newspaper to remain free of faculty, staff or administrative oversight.

It's not quite the SDS, but it's something.


  1. In that light, I will not teach any more classes until the Shitty Community College administration agrees to reinstate Shitty Community College staff members to their former positions at the paper. This is a matter of principle, not because I'm lazy. Of course, I expect to continue receiving a paycheck. Can somebody please call me and wake me up when I need to start teaching again? Thanks.

  2. It does sound noble and all. I wonder if there's more to the story. Maybe you don't want to reveal what school it is exactly, but I wonder if there are some details the administration had that we don't.

    And, the sex? Was it any good?

  3. The story and school are very easily googleable, assuming the Tuesday above is the same Tuesday when this was reported:
    "People were pulling all the papers off the stands and weren’t identifying themselves until I asked and they said they were part of the administration. They were pulling papers off the stand and actually out of peoples’ hands."

    And, no, it appears to not have been very good sex. The most interesting part appears to have been a guide to "safe, sane and consensual" bondage and S&M.

    Are all parties okay with the readily identifiable nature of this story?

  4. I know we don't iike links, but this one is worth checking out:

    1. My favorite line from that link: "Um, sir, the students are all adults."

      I'll be giggling about that one for weeks.

    2. Indeed. The mention of Roger's "roommate," Vince, is also pretty good. Guess the Dean won't be getting a wedding invitation if and when the Supreme Court sorts out the same-sex marriage question (or, if Roger has a sense of humor -- and a new job by then -- maybe he will).

    3. In my own time in a CC I found that many times I did not have all adults. A large high school right near my campus sent us 15-16 year old students all the time. I actually began to think a bit about my readings for those classes because of the shocked looks on some faces when the more adult themes came around.

    4. To be clear, I was giggling at the contention that the students are adults.

  5. The form they've chosen for their protest does seem a little, um, logically inconsistent. "We counter denials of free speech rights by ceasing to engage in free speech ourselves until those rights are restored!" Doesn't quite work, somehow.

    That said, it is, of course, in appropriate for the CC administration to censor the student paper. It's also pretty silly. Yes, every generation thinks it invented sex, but there are biological explanations for 20-something being especially preoccupied with sex. I'm having more trouble coming up with explanations for the administrators' inability to take said phenomenon in stride.

    Unless, of course, there's some other, bigger, more genuinely important piece of news (e.g. a major tuition increase) they're hoping no one will notice/be around to cover. In that case, they may be smarter than they appear.

    1. there should not be a space between "in" and "appropriate."

  6. I'm not sure the presence of dual-credit students on campus is entirely relevant here, since such students agree, at the time of enrollment, to be treated by the college as adults.

    The real issue here is whether the Shitty Community College administration is within its rights. The answer would, on the face of it, appear to be no. Public colleges can interfere with student publications only in cases of defamation, or where a published item has demonstrably resulted in a disruption of the college's educational operations.

    P.S. Sid, I won't out you if you won't out me. Deal?

  7. I am so glad I teach at a place where I will not open up our student paper and find a "how-to" guide on butt plugs and dildos.

    I don't think there's any real value in this. Like students don't have access to the internet? Printing a "sex" edition of a student paper is a smug "lookit me!" move to get a reaction and "prove" how "open" everyone is.

    In terms of their particular sexual proclivities, I'd like people to stay closed. I don't care what Gary the Gay Guy does in private with his friend George. I don't care what Susie the Spanker does in private with her friend Bob. Keep it out of the fucking paper.

    Want to do something productive? How about writing about things like gender rights issues on campus? Or LGBTQ issues on campus? Boring things like the experience of a transgender student seeking a dorm? Sexual harassment? Administration exposes? How about the true meaning of journalism, which is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable? There's nothing about lube and dildos in there. If you have to do something on "sex," how about the laws in the town regulating sex shops? Sex workers?


    Students are narcissistic fucks.

  8. I sent this story (not from CM, but from mainstream news reports) to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). I wouldn't be surprised if others had already done the same thing.

    Today, FIRE wrote a letter to the college protesting against the suspension of the student paper. The newspaper has apparently been reinstated.

    It isn't really clear from the second story whether the reinstatement was a result of student and outside pressure, or whether there really were ongoing issues that the college needed to address. The college's rationale for the suspension smells like cover-your-ass BS to me.

    Stella, I'm sure there are subjects of greater value that the students could, and maybe should, write about. When it comes to stuff like this, however, I believe that the principle of free expression is more important than anyone's squeamishness or self-righteous indignation about subject matter.

    1. "squeamishness or self-righteous indignation" = Newspeak for "dignity" and "decorum."

    2. Don't be silly.

      The question is not even about whether the content itself is dignified or decorous. Personally, I tend to agree with Stella that students writing about sex often focus too much on the graphic, and probably demonstrate a certain narcissism and/or desire to appear controversial and get a reaction. I also think that there are more interesting and important issues that would make excellent subject matter for a student paper. To that extent, I share her concern for what you call dignity and decorum.

      But that is, for me, a completely separate question from whether or not a public institution of higher education should be suspending publication of a student newspaper based on a distaste for the content that appears in a particular issue. And it is this question that is the relevant one here, whatever you happen to think of the content.

      I can explain in more detail the difference between opposing someone's views, on the one hand, and supporting their rights to express their views, on the other, if it would help you grasp the distinction I'm making here. I'm just rather surprised that anyone who works in academia would have any trouble with the concept.

    3. Not a bit of it. The public also has an interest in limiting the spread of pornography; as Dworkin pointed out, such trash encourages the objectification of people. That's entirely separate from "the expression of views."

      In my turn, I have problems understanding how academics, whose entire lives are built around the process of discriminating the good from the bad, and teaching others to engage in the same, can support narcissistic trash as "freedom of expression."

    4. Indeed. If we just decide for others what is worth expressing, then we don't have to bother teaching people to discriminate between the good and the bad. Freedom of speech is so inconvenient; without it, there would be no need for critical thinking, and we could spend all of our time drinking.

    5. In my turn, I have problems understanding how academics, whose entire lives are built around the process of discriminating the good from the bad, and teaching others to engage in the same, can support narcissistic trash as "freedom of expression."

      This paragraph very precisely demonstrates that you actually don't understand what freedom of expression means. It appears that you literally cannot even grasp the concept.

      Freedom of expression is precisely not about discriminating between the good and the bad. It rests on the assumption that, with a few specific exceptions (libel, slander, criminal conspiracy, direct threats of violence, etc.), the freedom to express one's views is a fundamental right, and that society functions better when "bad" opinions and "bad" speech are exposed in the marketplace of public opinion, rather than being squashed by the draconian power of the autocrat.

      If you really think that "narcissistic trash" qualifies as something to be banned, and that it is incompatible with freedom of expression, you simply don't believe in the concept of freedom of expression at all. That's fine. The world certainly isn't short of autocrats who think they know what's best for everyone else, and that they should get to decide what people think and say. As long as you understand that "discriminating the good from the bad" is perfectly compatible with the principle that one can recognize and critique the bad without wanting to ban or suppress or forcefully silence it.

      Your own inability to understand freedom of expression is, in my opinion, a bad thing. Your own lack of concern for freedom of expression is something that is fundamentally antithetical to a free and open society. It's certainly more dangerous and problematic for society than a student newspaper writing about sex. Yet I would defend your right to your dangerous and problematic opinion in just the same way as I would defend the right of that newspaper to publish "narcissistic trash."

  9. Here come de judge, here come de judge....

    In the case of Shitty Community College vs. Reality, I find SCC in contempt of the First Amendment and reason in general. Now to dole out the harshness:

    The Dean: Siberia, hard labor, life.

    The Administration flunkies who suppressed the paper: Siberia, hard labor, life.

    The students who wrote this dumb issue: Slapped, lectured for six months by a reanimated I.F. Stone while alternately being mocked by Dan Savage, noted sex columnist and homosexual.

    The college: Made property of the USSR.

    Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kygyzstan, Turkmenistan, Georgia (including Nagorno-Karabakh), Armenia, the Ukraine, Belarus, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia: All listed states will return to their former identities as republics of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics with all former flags and government centers. Renationalization of the economy will begin shortly.

    So say I,

    Strelnikov, Judge of the Damned

  10. In this one I simpatize with the administration. The rock: a first amendment lawsuit with the student; the hard place: a harassment lawsuit with the professor. Probably they took the best couse of action: impound the newspaper and recover as many issues as possible to be able to show that did their best, and then wait for the pressure to reinstate the student. No-win.

  11. The president of the college sent this note around to everyone yesterday. Everyone knows what college paper it is now, so I've not edited it at all:

    I am providing you the comments I made to the CNM Chronicle Publication Board at 1:00 p.m. today:

    Hello everybody. First, I want to give these newspapers back to the Chronicle staff. We have some more around the college and we’ll get as many back to you as possible.

    The reason that we pulled this issue from the news-racks around campus was that a High School student was included in this issue and we needed to check on the legal ramifications of information on a minor in a publication of the college.

    I believe as a College we have failed to provide the CNM Chronicle with the level of editorial resources and education that it needs and deserves. I hope that in today’s Publication Board meeting, the Board will discuss ways the college can provide you a better educational experience through your participation with the CNM Chronicle. We encourage you to bring our community partners here today to the table to assist us in creating a positive situation moving forward.

    I am authorizing the CNM Chronicle to continue operations immediately.

    I hope that the Publication Board will discuss ways to move forward to create a more positive educational environment and look forward to hearing from the Publication Board regarding the outcomes of the discussion.

    1. That's interesting, Sid, thanks for forwarding the note. I, too, wonder about a 15 year old being quoted in a sex issue about favorite positions and all. Surely someone's parent went ballistic. This is a huge school, too, isn't it? I saw online that it was nearly 40,000 students. That's a lot of dirty newspapers!