Central New Mexico Community College backed down this week from its decision to suspend the student newspaper for publishing a “sex issue.”
The Albuquerque school had suspended publication of the CNM Chronicle and suspended the student staff Tuesday, following the issue’s release. Administrators said the content, which included articles on sex toys, abstinence, and students’ favorite sexual positions, was offensive and inappropriate for the school’s mission.
Officials then took issues off distribution racks on a campus of nearly 30,000 students.
On Wednesday, officials said the paper will resume publication and the “sex issue” will be returned to the racks.
CNM President Katharine Winograd told students that officials originally pulled the paper from the stands because “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.”
Winograd also said the college, which does not have a journalism program, had failed to give students proper resources.
CNM Chronicle Editor Jyllian Roach said the sex issue was meant to be educational. The high school student was interviewed for a story on abstinence, with permission from the student’s parents. A sociology major Roach now plans to pursue a career in journalism.
Censoring a student publication because its content is offensive violates students rights to freedom of expression, argues FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) in a letter to the college.
High school and college newspapers often publish issues focusing on sexual matters — and often run into controversy.
Telling Intercultural Communications students to stomp on a piece of paper with “Jesus” written on it was supposed to illustrate the power of symbols. (Why not an “Allah” stomp? That’s a really powerful symbol!) Now Florida Atlantic University has apologized for the “Jesus” stomp exercise, but denied suspending the student who complained about it.
“This exercise will not be used again,” FAU officials said in a statement. “We sincerely apologize for any offense this caused. Florida Atlantic University respects all religions and welcomes people of all faiths, backgrounds and beliefs.”
The exercise came from a book by a St. Norbert College communications professor, Jim Neuliep.
“This exercise is a bit sensitive, but really drives home the point that even though symbols are arbitrary, they take on very strong and emotional meanings,” the exercise states. “Most will hesitate. Ask why they can’t step on the paper. Discuss the importance of symbols in culture.”
“We can confirm that no student has been expelled, suspended or disciplined by the university as a result of any activity that took place during this class,” the university statement claimed, adding that students weren’t required to step on the paper.
Ryan Rotela, a devout Mormon, was charged with violating the student code of conduct and ordered not to attend class, according to Fox News. He’d told instructor Deandre Poole that he objected to the exercise, saying “don’t do that again” and “you’ll be hearing from me.”
. . . according to a letter written by Associate Dean Rozalia Williams, Rotela is facing a litany of charges – including an alleged violation of the student code of conduct, acts of verbal, written or physical abuse, threats, intimidation, harassment, coercion or other conduct which threaten the health, safety or welfare of any person.”
“In the interim, you may not attend class or contact any of the students involved in this matter – verbally or electronically – or by any other means,” Williams wrote to Rotela. “Please be advised that a Student Affairs hold may be placed on your records until final disposition of the complaint.”
Presumably, the charges have been dropped, but FAU, a state university, didn’t admit Rotela had been threatened and didn’t apologize to him.
The professor had a right to ask students to stomp on “Jesus,” but can’t require them to violate their religious beliefs, argues FIRE’s Greg Lukianoff, citing a 1943 U.S. Supreme Court case. Protesting the exercise was a classic exercise of free speech rights.
Another FAU communications professor, James Tracy, has questioned “whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place —at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation’s news media have described.”
Young Americans for Liberty will hold an “empty holster” protest against gun control at Florida’s Santa Fe College, despite opposition by campus police. President Jackson Sasser acknowledged YAL’s free speech rights, after receiving a letter from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). The “First Amendment is of paramount importance to our mission to educate students and prepare them to be leaders in our society,” Sasser wrote.
Sinclair Community College in Ohio violated students’ free speech rights by banning anti-abortion signs at a rally, charges the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) in a lawsuit against the Dayton college.
On June 8, SCC’s Traditional Values Club (TVC) hosted a “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally to oppose health-care mandates dealing with abortion and contraception. Police forced participants to put their signs on the ground.
According to The Clarion, SCC’s campus newspaper, campus police have enforced a no-sign policy on campus since 1990, claiming signs could be disruptive. Distributing leaflets also is banned.
While there’s no evidence Sinclair singled out conservatives — gay rights protesters also were censored recently — it’s hard to believe the college’s sweeping ban on free expression will stand up in court.
“Occupy” protesters may be evicted from the Seattle Central Community College campus due to crowding, poor sanitation, drug use and complaints of sexual harassment, reports the Seattle Times. The college also faces added security and cleaning costs.
A draft of an emergency rule prepared for the state says the college needs to take action because of unsafe conditions at the encampment, including syringes and needles on the ground, drug and alcohol use, lack of hygiene facilities and other risk factors near the college child-care center.
An Occupy Seattle spokesman said the college’s Capitol Hill neighborhood was known for drug use and transients before the activists set up their tents.
An estimated 120 people have camped in about 60 tents and other temporary structures on the college’s south lawn for more than three weeks.
The encampment borders the child care center’s outdoor facility, said Judy Kitzman, a college spokeswoman.
. . . workers at the child care center have spotted protesters using drugs. The college put tarps over a fence between the facility and the camping area, but Kitzman said protesters tore some of the tarps down to use in their makeshift shelters. Now she said children are restricted to staying inside during their recess periods.
Female students have complained of sexual harassment by protesters, Kitzman added.
Marc Bechtol has been reinstated at his North Carolina community college after being suspended without a hearing for protesting the school’s aggressive marketing of a debit-card.
Catawba Valley Community College issued a CVCC-branded debit card, which doubles as a student ID, in partnership with a financial service company with the creepy name of Higher One. To activate his card, Bechtol reportedly had to verify his Social Security number, date of birth and student number. He started receiving “credit card spam.”
“Did anyone else get a bunch of credit card spam in their CVCC inbox today? So, did CVCC sell our names to banks, or did Higher One? I think we should register CVCC’s address with every porn site known to man. Anyone know any good viruses to send them?” He immediately added a second comment, “OK, maybe that would be a slight overreaction.”
When Bechtol was pulled out of class and banned from campus for two semesters, he turned to the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), which argued it was a free-speech case.
The suspension was suspended after Bechtol offered to apologize for his “poor choice of words.”
Higher One, which is based in Connecticut, has deals with hundreds of colleges and universities to create student ID cards that serve as debit cards, writes writes Bob Sullivan on MSNBC. Colleges save money by depositing financial aid funds directly in the students’ accounts instead of mailing a check. Students get their aid quickly and can withdraw money easily. However, the cards carry high fees.
On many campuses, students are charged 50 cents for each “debit” card purchase at retail outlets in which they enter their PIN codes for verification — known as PIN-debit purchases, as opposed to signature-debit. ATM withdrawals at non-Higher One cash machines cost $2.50.
Students are charged an “inactivity fee” of $19 per month if the account is not used for more than nine months, complained an Oregon parent, who started a Facebook page titled “Ignore the Higher One Debit Card Offer.”
It’s very difficult for students to understand all the fees, wrote the Portland Oregonian last year.
A “racist” cartoon in the student newspaper has sparked controversy at Solano Community College in California. The four-strip panel, drawn by a black male student, showed black women complaining about black men’s irresponsibility and concluding: “(We) need to get rid of them ALL!! A toast ladies — Black men need to just GO AWAY.”
Student editor-in-chief Sharman Bruni said the Tempest has “no tolerance for racism in the newsroom,” according to a statement posted on the school paper’s website and which she read to about 125 students and administrators who attended a noon panel discussion in the Solano College Theatre.
The cartoon strip was part of a series which would have shown “the innate strength of black male and female relationships” and that “there is nothing that black men and women cannot overcome,” Bruni said. “We acknowledge that there was an error in judgment in publishing the strip without proper context and we take full responsibility for this.”
At the open forum, Tempest staff members, the faculty advisor and cartoonist Phillip Temple spoke to critics. Temple, who was booed by black students, said the cartoon was meant to be part of a series with a positive message for black women and men. The Tempest has canceled the series.
SCC President Jowel Laguerre also condemned the cartoon as “highly offensive, insensitive” and something which “contradicts our district’s philosophy, core values and mission,” according to a written statement.
“Joking about “getting rid” of black men next to an editorial about a black man who was killed was horrible judgment. And the cartoon wasn’t funny. But I can’t help thinking there must be few molehills and many mountains on the Solano campus.
Forbidden to hand out anti-abortion pamphlets on her community college campus, student Ethel Borel-Donohue is fighting for her First Amendment rights with the help of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE). Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio bans distribution of literature on campus, except by student groups with prior approval.
“The right to distribute literature about controversial topics is one of Americans’ most hallowed rights,” FIRE President Greg Lukianoff said. “If someone’s claim to be offended by speech were all it took to overrule the First Amendment, we would all be reduced to silence. Thankfully the Constitution does not recognize a ‘right not to be offended.’”
During Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October, Borel-Donohue handed out 15 flyers alleging that birth control pills and abortion may raise breast cancer risks. She gave the flyers to classmates in a paralegal course after class had let out. One student complained of being offended; the paralegal program chair told Borel-Donohue not to hand out any materials.
FIRE also is protesting censorship of an art instructor’s painting at Gainesville State College in Georgia. Stanley Bermudez’s painting, showing torch-wielding Klansmen and a lynching superimposed on a Confederate flag, was removed from a faculty art exhibition by GSC President Martha T. Nesbitt. The “health and reputation” of the college was at stake, said Nesbitt, who said the painting’s imagery “has been perceived as aggressively hostile in other areas of the country.”
New York City dual-enrollment students adapted Antigone to criticize high school closures — and were closed down by school authorities, writes their teacher, Brian Pickett.
As part of a credit-bearing class at Queensborough Community College, students from Jamaica High School and Queens Collegiate, a smaller school within the same building, spent the fall semester reading and discussing the classic Greek play Antigone and creating scenes that connected the play to their own experiences. In addition to Sophocles’ original text, we also read The Island, a play about two political prisoners who stage Antigone to protest the policies of apartheid South Africa.
New York City school officials plan to close Jamaica High School, a low-performing school. Jamaica High students suggested adapting Antigone to explore the loss of their school.
In the story of Antigone, King Creon decrees that one of her brothers shall receive proper burial rights, while the other is “left out for the birds to feed on.” Within the school building some of the newer small schools are receiving adequate funding and technology, while the older Jamaica High School has seen its teaching staff cut by 30 percent and struggles with large class sizes and a lack of resources. It seemed to be the perfect fit for our project, with many of the characters in Antigone easily finding their modern equivalent — Antigone and her sister as students at the two schools, Creon as the School Chancellor, and prophet Tireseus as veteran teacher. Even the Greek chorus manifested itself in the guise of a school security guard, the Department of Education secretary, and two janitors who bicker in the hallway over whether or not the school should be closed.
Despite their differences, students “created a play that did not vilify either school,” Pickett writes.
As an educator — seeing students engage with a classical text, making direct connections to their own lives and the politics of the times we live in — it doesn’t get any better than this.
Principals of the two schools refused to allow students to perform the play on school grounds because of “negative references to the Department of Education as well as the Chancellor and Mayor,” Pickett writes.
Students have asked for a meeting with the principals and are looking for an off-school venue to perform the play. Valerie Strauss’s blog, The Answer Sheet, has the script of the students’ play.
A non-credit enrichment course titled “What is Islam?” is off the winter schedule at Lane Community College, reports the Eugene Register-Guard. Barry Sommer, a community member who proposed the class and was slated to teach it, is anti-Muslim, claims a Muslim civil rights group. Sommer leads the local chapter of ACT! for America, which warns that “Islamic militants have declared war on America.”
“When it got on our radar, given the recent events in Portland and Corvallis, we said, ‘Wait a minute, we need to be very careful and really consider how Lane engages learning experiences in this environment,’ ” said Mary Spilde, LCC’s president.
Spilde was referring to the alleged bombing attempt by a young Muslim man in downtown Portland, and the subsequent arson at a Corvallis mosque attended by the man, a former student at Oregon State University.
Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR’s communications director in Washington, D.C., said Sommer “has an apparent history of anti-Muslim bias and he has made numerous misinformed statements about the Islamic faith.”
Hooper said some of the posts on Sommer’s personal blog — including an entry in which Sommer describes a proposed constitutional amendment to ban the practice of Islam in the United States as “brilliant, crystal clear and something to seriously consider in the face of Islamic supremacism”— further illustrates his anti-Muslim agenda.
“Is that really the type of person who should be teaching students about Islam?” Hooper asked.
No one had signed up for the $55 eight-week “What is Islam?” course before it was cancelled. Sommer would have earned $160 for teaching it, if it had drawn enough students.
Sommer, who says he has “nothing against Muslims,” has threatened to sue on free-speech grounds.