An empty spot on a bookshelf of the bookstore is not an unusual sight during the first week of school, unless it is where volume IX of the Chaffey Review is supposed be, and every copy has been pulled off of the shelf, in a startling act of censorship.
As of Jan. 16, at the request of Dr. Henry Shannon, President of Chaffey College, Volume IX has been pulled off of the shelf.
“I don’t know what has been deemed offensive,” Michelle Dowd, editorial director and faculty adviser of the Review, said. “I have been told to limit distribution of this edition, but not told why.”
The First Amendment protects the freedom of the press, and this includes freedom of the student press as well. Chaffey is a public school, and according to the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), the court prohibits confiscating copies, requiring prior review, removing objectionable material, and limiting circulation.
The Chaffey Review is a student published creative arts journal, and the product of English 35. Each volume has a theme, and the class works to make sure that every piece put into the volume, whether art, poetry, fiction etc. goes along with the theme. Volume IX was no different, but this theme, Innocence & Experience, lent itself to some more controversial pieces.
Dowd is listed as Editorial Director of the Review, but it is not meant in the traditional sense. That was a title the students came up with, meaning that Dowd was a manager of the team of editors, and offered direction when asked, especially in form, but she had no say over the content.
“I am legally bound by the First Amendment to stand by the students, who make their own choices.” Dowd said.
Shakisha Harvey, director of the art team, worked with the other students to choose the art pieces that went into the journal. For extremely controversial pieces, it took an entire class vote to decide whether or not to include the piece.
Before Volume IX went to print, it was previewed by a committee of 15 members, made up of professors and professionals in artistic fields.
“We were looking to keep integrity for the themes,” Melissa Lewis, senior editor for Volume IX, said. “The committee agreed that it [all] went along with the theme.”
Even after these processes, some of the art, specifically, can be offensive to some, and seen as controversial.
Students who were a part of the creative team of the volume were upset.
“I didn’t expect them to actually pull the book,” poetry director for Voume IX Marco Murnez said. “I think it was stupid that they did that.”
Dowd sent a copy to Dr. Sherrie Guerrero, Vice President of instructional services. She noticed not only the graphic art, but the violent content of the writings as well.
“In my position, it’s trying to balance, taking anything that could be seen as a threat to the campus seriously, and also balancing students first amendment rights,” Guerrero said. “We just needed some time to work through that.”
Volume IX will now be sold with a disclaimer on the cover, warning readers that there is more graphic and violent content than in past volumes.
“I think that’s a fair solution that lets potential readers know there’s some stuff in here, but also protects the first amendment rights of the students.” Guerrero said. “We don’t want the students to think we aren’t supporting them.”
Instead of simply warning about the violent and graphic nature, it also extends sympathy to the families of the victims of recent school violence, which Lewis feels in unnecessary.
“This book has nothing to do with school violence. People lean more toward writing about those themes, because they are such a big part of humanity.” Lewis said. “It seems like they’re trying to use the power of suggestion to keep people from buying it.”
Dowd does not hold any animosity towards those who pulled it off of the shelf.
“It is a valuable learning experience for the students, learning where the lines are, and whether or not they have crossed them,” Dowd said. “And if they did cross them, what they might do differently in the future.”
Lewis also sees it as a learning experience.
“We’re going to become better artists because of it, and we’ve now learned where those lines are,” Lewis said. “I can’t promise that we won’t cross them again, but now we know where they are.”
English department coordinator Neil Watkins believes the situation might have been handled more gracefully.
“The students worked very diligently on the volume, and their work deserves to be seen, which ultimately it will.”
Lewis has no regrets.
“The point of the book is to make you think, and I believe we’ve accomplished that with this book,” Lewis said. “I’m most proud of this volume because it takes the risks we say that we will in our mission statement.”