Last Thursday, October 4, in the Richardson Library, DePaul students, faculty, and the public were treated to a panel discussion on censorship, book banning, and free speech for Banned Books Week. Rene de los Santos from the Writing, Rhetoric, and Discourse (WRD) department; Heather Jagman, Coordinator of Library Instruction at the DePaul University Library; and Lauri Dietz, Director of the University Center for Writing-based Learning were on the panel to address attendees as well as answer any questions.
The Outreach Team from the UCWbL provided coffee, snacks, and notecards for attendees to write down questions for the panel. Heather Jagman started off the discussion with a history of libraries’ involvement with battling censorship, the idea of challenging and banning books, and the Library Bill of Rights.
Lauri Dietz went next with an amusing introduction to the concept of banning books in her own home and classroom, merely because she chooses which texts she will or will not include in a reading list.
Questions were taken from the audience, most of which centered on the idea that DePaul, as a private Roman Catholic university, may or may not have the opportunity to challenge more books. Heather Jagman assured those in attendance that DePaul does not challenge or ban any books in their library. She also gave some examples of when controversial texts may be useful for young people, as well as a library and librarian’s obligation to make sure a wide variety of texts are included for the public.
Rene de los Santos spoke about his ideas of rhetoric and discourse within the confines of censorship, as well as how young people, who are the most frequently targeted when it comes to books being challenged, are the most in need of discovering the ideas that help us to ask more questions. By the time a person gets to college, he argued, he or she is already prepared to ask bigger questions. Limiting children’s and young adults’ access to texts that could help them as those questions is censorship at its worst. He provided an example of the students in Arizona whose entire Mexican American curriculum was banned.
While the panel did not come to any definitive conclusions, mostly because the concept of censorship is so broad, there was agreement that DePaul does not support banning or censorship of books.