A 20-year-old college student in Yucaipa, California is protesting the inclusion of four landmark graphic novels in an English class that she took during the recently-finished Spring 2015 semester at Crafton Hills College. According to the Redlands Daily Facts newspaper, Tara Shultz and her parents object to Persepolis, Fun Home, Y: The Last ManVol. 1, and The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll’s House as “pornography” and “garbage.”
Shultz, who is working towards an Associate of Arts in English at the public community college, signed up for English 250: Fiction because it fulfills one part of her degree requirements. She was apparently aware that the specific focus of the class was graphic novels, but she told the newspaper that “I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.” Shultz says that Associate Professor Ryan Bartlett, who has taught the course for three terms without any other complaints, failed to adequately warn students about the books’ content. Her father Greg Shultz said that “if they (had) put a disclaimer on this, we wouldn’t have taken the course.” Tara Shultz agreed, saying that Bartlett “should have stood up the first day of class and warned us.”
Of course, Shultz and her parents did have complete information about which books would be covered in the class–the school requires instructors (p. 20) to distribute a detailed syllabus on the first day of the term–and ample time to withdraw with no effect on her grade. Fourteen other courses offered at Crafton Hills fulfill the same degree requirement as English 250. The college’s online calendar shows that the Spring semester began on January 12, and the last date to drop a course with no grade penalty was January 30. Shultz apparently brought up her objections to four out of ten books covered in the class after that date, when her only options were to complete the assigned work or withdraw with a 0.
In an email to the Redlands Daily Facts, Bartlett defended his graphic novel curriculum:
I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition. As Faulkner states, ‘The only thing worth writing about is the human heart in conflict with itself.’ The same may be said about reading literature. The characters in the chosen graphic novels are all struggling with issues of morality, self discovery, heartbreak, etc. The course in question has also been supported by the faculty, administration and approved by the board.
Nevertheless, the newspaper reports that Shultz demonstrated against the books along with “her parents and several friends” outside the college’s administration building on Thursday. When asked what she hopes to accomplish, Shultz replied:
At least get a warning on the books. At most I would like the books eradicated from the system. I don’t want them taught anymore. I don’t want anyone else to have to read this garbage.
Greg Shultz says that he has met with Crafton Hills officials about the books, and they have (disappointingly) promised to “warn” future English 250 students about their content. But Schultz the elder also objects to their availability in the campus bookstore when “there are under-aged kids here at this campus.” (One must wonder if he knows what is in the library and on the Internet for free!) CBLDF will certainly be watching this story closely, so stay tuned!
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.