Campus censorship prevents growth

The PostSecret posts were recently removed from the wall in the Hixson Union Building. In their place is a poster with the Winston Churchill quotation, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak.” Attached to the poster is a statement written by Brittany Roach, special events coordinator for ASWU. In this she writes that due to several concerns, “the administration asked to have the more offensive secrets removed.”

Her response is as follows: “to maintain the integrity of the project I chose to remove all of them, so as not to censor some.”

I applaud Roach’s decision and response to the situation. It has brought me to question other forms of censorship on our campus, though. Does it exist? Who imposes the filter? Are there benefits? Disadvantages?

The most obvious form of censorship on our campus is Safe Connect. This blocks students from accessing websites deemed inappropriate. Is this wrong? Is it necessary?

There is no clear-cut answer. At the most basic level, it restricts students. The limited access becomes an issue when it prevents access to information for research assignments.

This was an issue for a friend who was unable to access websites with profanity while researching for a Core 350 paper on the use of language in film. Another friend was unable to access a foreign site she needed for a class project. But we must consider another aspect of the issue, is censorship necessary to uphold our Christian heritage? Should we relinquish some of our rights in order to uphold the values of our institution? Does it help to hold one another accountable? It is naturally understood that censorship serves to maintain the values of the university, but does it contradict the residence life mission of growing adults?

The majority of censorship on campus, however, seems to be self-imposed. There is a clear dominant culture on campus with known taboos. Students routinely filter their language and content of speech to operate in accordance to the spoken and unspoken standards. This is worrisome. Lives lived in fear of saying the wrong thing, of being labeled as dirty or below an arbitrary standard is wrong. Our campus cannot be an environment that generates this anxiety. Am I advocating continuous belligerent behavior on campus? Absolutely not, but I think it is necessary to take the time to evaluate the message we are projecting to our peers.

The last half of the Churchill quote is, “courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

This is an area in which we need to improve as a community. Among the secrets posted on the wall were deep and serious issues. These were the voices of individuals dying to tell their stories. There must be a space on our campus for conversations of this nature to be had. But this cannot be limited to a sanctioned program. Cultural diversity advocate Macy Olivas said, “Students will talk about sexuality or racism, but an FRF (Facilities Request Form) has to be filled out first; if it’s not an organized event, the conversation won’t happen.”

If we were willing and able to authentically engage without the need of a Courageous Conversations banner our campus would thrive. We would be a people of honest exploration, of respect and genuine love.

Far too often, issues of respect arise with vulnerability on campus. Students who think and live beyond the reaches of the Whitworth norm are pushed to areas of isolation and questions of belonging on our campus. Issues that arise on our campus are therefore silenced instead of being appropriately addressed. The spectrum of students on our campus is one of its strengths. We cannot allow our backgrounds and preconceptions to threaten its presence.

I believe especially as a Christian community, we must be aware of the tone we set. It is known that hypocrisy runs rampant in the church, but we cannot use this to dismiss our actions, continuing to generate divides. We must actively work against our natural inclination to judge differences. We must strive as a community to push past tolerance toward love, to become a people who are comfortable with honesty.

Haley Atkinson