After CBLDF last week joined with the National Coalition Against Censorship in urging Crafton Hills College not to require a disclaimer about potentially offensive content on future syllabi for a graphic novel class, the San Bernardino Community College District has reversed course and will leave the decision up to individual instructors.
The issue arose after a 20-year-old student and her parents publicly raised objections to four graphic novels covered in English 250 last month–after she had completed the class. Tara Shultz, who is working towards an Associate Degree in English, knew when she began the course in January that it focused on graphic novels, but said she “expected Batman and Robin, not pornography.” Shultz contacted her parents, and the family challenged the inclusion of four of the ten books taught by Associate Professor Ryan Bartlett: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi, Fun Home by Alison Bechdel, Y: The Last Man Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Pia Guerra, and The Sandman Vol. 2: The Doll’s House by Neil Gaiman and various artists. Shultz remained in the class through the end of the semester on May 21.
Although Crafton Hills President Cheryl Marshall initially said the college would try to avoid such problems in future with a warning on the course syllabus, the Press Enterprise newspaper reported last week that the community college district had ultimately decided against such a requirement for Crafton Hills and its other campus, San Bernardino Valley College. Chancellor Bruce Baron said that he “had never dealt with a similar student complaint during his 40 years in education.”
Greg Shultz, Tara’s father, has apparently stopped responding to media inquiries. In an earlier interview with the Press Enterprise, however, he seemed slightly incredulous that “our daughter had to read this to get a grade.” He described the content of the four critically acclaimed graphic novels as including:
Lesbian oral sex, suicide, homosexuality, pedophilia — a boy wanting to have sex with every young girl he can find – murder, torture – and by torture I mean, gouging out eyeballs and cutting off limbs – kidnapping (and) imprisonment.
That is a strictly accurate description, but the majority of adult students who have chosen to take the graphic novel course over three semesters were obviously able to take context into consideration–including the fact that Persepolis and Fun Home are accounts of actual events from the creators’ lives. CBLDF applauds Crafton Hills’ and SBCCD’s decision in support of academic freedom for both faculty and students!
Contributing Editor Maren Williams is a reference librarian who enjoys free speech and rescue dogs.