College Declines Student’s Request to “Eradicate” Acclaimed Graphic Novels from Campus
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Although professor Ryan Bartlett taught English 250 at Crafton Hills College in Yucaipa, California, for three semesters without a single complaint about the syllabus, student Tara Shultz recently took offense at the course’s inclusion of four graphic novels. Due to their depictions of sex and violence, Shultz called for the eradication of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra’s Y: The Last Man, Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The Doll’s House, and Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home.
As someone who also read Fun Home in a college course, I find the study of graphic novels refreshing and integral to understanding diverse modes of storytelling. Tara Shultz, who found its content “shocking” and “pornographic,” would probably be shocked even further by the thought of sold-out audiences flocking to New York to see Fun Home on Broadway, the play inspired by Bechdel’s graphic novel.
What is literature for, if not to shock us? It’s good to be shocked.
Cheryl A. Marshall, president of the College, appears to agree. She thankfully declined Shultz’s request to ban the books in question. While the request is unfortunately unsurprising — a long history of banned books suggests a hefty list of students and parents scandalized by works of literature — Tara Shultz was aware of the syllabus from the beginning, and therefore could have dropped the class if she’d done her research. Instead, she attempted to prevent any other student from reading them, which is blatantly obnoxious.
President Marshall released a statement supporting the college’s policy on academic freedom which “requires an open learning environment at the college. Students have the opportunity to study controversial issues and arrive at their own conclusions and faculty are to support the student’s right to freedom of inquiry. We want students to learn and grow from their college experiences; sometimes this involves reaffirming one’s values while other times beliefs and perspectives change.”
Tara Shultz will hopefully be satisfied by the inclusion of a disclaimer in the course description.