Conversation Cafe covers book censorship
February 9, 2017
The removal and restriction of certain books is no new phenomenon. Despite a more historical and dystopian portrayal, book censorship is still a current issue.
To address and inform about this issue, the office for Diversity and Social Justice Education is holding a Conversation Cafe titled “Burn Before Reading: Book Censorship” at noon on Feb. 10 at the Women’s Resource Center. The Conversation Cafe will be hosted by Emily Knox, a specialist on intellectual freedom and censorship.
“Conversation Cafe is a lunchtime series focused on current questions or issues that might be emerging around social justice issues. They are often facilitated by current or former students or faculty. We really draw upon the talent and questions that people are asking here on campus,” said Ross Wantland, the director of diversity and social justice education.
Wantland said the issue of book censorship is an emerging question for students and faculty alike. Knox, the speaker for the Burn Before Reading discussion, clarified that sometimes books are challenged for the right reasons, such as being in the wrong place for its genre or reading level. However, a lot of the time books are censored because of disagreements or a thirst for power.
“A lot of it is about control: of the flow of information, how children develop or what the community should believe,” Knox said.
Her goal is to show that the power of reading is stronger than the power of censorship and there is no way to formally stop the flow of information in society.
Knox’s discussion of book banning will center on how an open flow of knowledge in society is important for social justice. She emphasized the importance of understanding the different people and places that reading can foster, and said students need to be exposed to ideas that are different from their own in order to grow and cultivate their own opinions.
The Conversation Cafe, which is typically on the second and fourth Friday of each month, has a different topic to focus on each week. Anyone is welcome to walk in and enjoy lunch while engaging with the different speakers that the program brings in.
“The ‘Lunch on Us’ programs provide a unique opportunity for people to dip their toes into the waters of these types of conversations, even if they’re studying areas that don’t allow these conversations daily,” Wantland said.
The lessons these programs can give students, Wantland said, are invaluable and can provide a strong basis for an understanding of different problems that affect campus life.
One of the students who is interested in this kind of discussion is Skylar Lipman, senior in ACES. Lipman found the event on Facebook and was intrigued by the title and topic as well as by the location of the event, the Women’s Resource Center.
“Censorship is an interesting topic to me, largely because it has to do with issues of choice and the power that comes along with this. I’m also hoping to build some connections through the Women’s Resource Center, as there is some very interesting work being done through there,” Lipman wrote in an email.
Wantland said the importance of attending events such as the Conversation Cafes is that through the programs, his office is able to give a discussion space to issues that may otherwise not have homes around campus. Book censorship is one of these issues that Wantland is proud to be able to host.
Both Wantland and Knox emphasized the importance of students being able to use their years at college as a way to grow and develop views of the world. To Knox, this is largely facilitated through reading, which is why she believes in social justice and the flow of information working hand-in-hand.
“Being in college is about being exposed to ideas you have not been exposed to before, and sometimes that might be uncomfortable. Part of the experience of higher education is being exposed and learning to work through them, you don’t have to agree with all of them,” Knox said.