EXAMINING CENSORSHIP: CLEANING OUT OUR CLOSETS
To how much good and evil should we be exposed?
Freedom of Speech is a right you have for being in the United States. It is an act that is protected by the First Amendment in the Constitution and is also a part of many state and federal laws. This freedom is in place to protect democracy and the rights of its citizens. However, there are some things you can say that will jeopardize your freedom. Inciting imminent lawless action is an exclusion to free speech. This was established in Brandenburg, Ohio, in which it became a crime to say something that would incite the crowds into chaos or lawless actions. This is a good restriction, as seen in the classic example of yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. It could lead to panic and a lot of harm.
Freedom of Speech also doesn’t cover “fighting words,” when you say something to deliberately cause the hearer to retaliate, or true threats to the safety of the hearer. Imagine someone spoke about threatening your life. You call 911 and the police say they can’t do anything about it unless the speaker takes action. It wouldn’t help to wait until you’ve been attacked to seek help from authorities.
Perhaps you’ve heard about court cases over defamation of character, libel, or slander? These usually are civil cases for when one party sues another party for using their freedom of speech to spread lies or falsely cast poor light on them. This exclusion protects the citizen’s reputation.
Commercial speech has restrictions as well. After the supreme court ruling in Central Hudson Gas & Electric Corp. vs. Public Service Commission the government is allowed to ban advertisements for cigarettes, or make it unlawful for companies to use false advertising to trick consumers to buy into something they won’t actually receive.
Each of these things are just some of the many examples of censorship of speech that are in place to protect you, the citizen. You have the freedom to say anything you want so long as that speech does not impede on the rights of others, which is why some people use this right to say racist remarks, political activists use the right to put bumper stickers with angry phrases against the other political party, or religious people can use the right to tell people they are going to hell. It is legal so long as they do not threaten anyone. While it is in poor taste to be a part of the KKK or the Westboro Baptist Church, these groups have the right to have their say as long as they don’t do anything to threaten the safety or well-being of others in society.
As a Christian institution, we are held to the “higher standard” of social conduct. Our campus is a dry campus, yes, but there is more to attending here than another school.
Not only are we banned from drinking alcohol on campus, but it’s against the rules for students to partake off campus as well. Everyone knows the possible dangers and side effects of alcohol, and the school wants us to be safe and happy Christians. This benefit is for us as well as the school. What would Lincoln citizens think if a bunch of kids with Union hoodies were always being ratchet at a bar or wandering the streets while drunk? We represent our school with our actions at all times, not when you’re between 48th and 52nd street, Bancroft to Prescott. That being said, what are we representing as Adventists and Christians, and how are we showing people Jesus when we partake in actions of poor taste?
An additional requirement is to attend worships. We rack up attendance on point systems. While we would be fined for not going, no one is forcing us to anything other than sit on a pew. It just means we are more likely to be in the right place at the right time to reignite our inner spirit for Jesus.
That leads us to our dress code, which isn’t so bad. If Regina George were in charge we would only be allowed to wear sweats or pony tails once a week, and on Wednesdays we would wear pink. If it were up to me I’d get rid of camouflage patterns, jeans-with-flip-flops and we would only have the college girl outfit of uggs + yoga pants + north face + messy buns once a week max (I get you Regina!). But it is up to the Adventist standards of school dress, not me or a character from mean girls. We’re lucky that women aren’t required to wear skirts and dresses, and men required to wear a collar and tie on a daily basis.
The dress code censorship rules do affect girls more than guys. Guys basically have to make sure they don’t have large holes, alcohol brands, or cross dress—so it is pretty simple. Girls have rules about length of straps, length of shirts, length of shorts, length of skirts, length of dresses. Each one has specification of some elaborate manipulation of fingers that as a male I feel lucky to not know enough to write about. At the end of the day, the Adventist school system is just trying to keep us modest in a society driven by sexualization and gender stratification. Girls aren’t required to wear a burka, but we are required to not go for a “flirty” look that ends up as an outfit that yells “how much?” Then again, I’m a guy, so I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know the whole struggle.
While the school does not censor other non-Adventist conduct, nor condemn it, it still asks us to accept it and participate if we will. There is a reason people choose to take the sunset-to-sunset day off from school work or worldly activities. But since God made a Sabbath day off for man, not man for the Sabbath, we are allowed to do what we will on this day. The cafeteria supports a vegetarian lifestyle, but we are not forbidden from getting some chicken or pork at Mr. Lee’s down the street.
I won’t even pretend for a second that I support government internet regulation. I have no bones in my body that will care to explain the minor benefits of this idea (such as making it a safer place for minors) that could be taken care of by parents understanding that the internet is not going to be censored and educating their children about the dangers and abuses they may find there. We don’t need an MPAA/ESRB/FCC or any other type of organization to rate and censor the web. The internet is and should always remain an “Unrated” medium, users should know the risks and it should be up to the parents to make their own restrictions for children.
Outside of a national standard of restrictions at the home, school, and even a college campus level I do fully understand the reasons Internet restriction tools are put into place. Blocking sites that allow for access to pornography or piracy should absolutely be blocked.
Piracy includes acts of theft of digital material online. There are those who don’t see the harm in online piracy, but I’m not here to argue that. The reason it is good for Union College to use censorship to block pirating websites is to protect the college itself as well as the students. Internet piracy, although vague, is still illegal. Federal law inflicts major fines on people who commit to stealing movies for example. Union College doesn’t deserve to pay the fines it would receive for the hundreds of movies the students would download illegally, and the administration would rather not enable you to get yourself in trouble either.
Sometimes Internet censorship does benefit us, and the school is very invested and interested in its students safety and well-being. So lets talk about porn.
According to a general online study by Covenanteyes.com, men are 543% more likely to look at porn than women, 64% of men look at porn at least once a week compared to 18% of women. Pornography easily becomes an addiction, and like any addiction most people deny they are so dependent on it. You’ll make up any excuse in the book to convince yourself that you are exempt from these dangers. In reality you’re really stuck, but every part of you, consciously or unconsciously, will never see it that way. Porn is as addictive as drugs or alcohol can be. In my perspective, it’s sometimes easier to get into and in some ways harder to escape.
But this is why Union College has the right to censor our Internet use. While we have the freedom on our own to view it, and most people who want to can find a way to bypass it, the school has an obligation to not enable anyone to fall in the traps of online pornography. It is for our safety, our well-being, and our health—all of which Union College are not only liable for but focused on helping us thrive in.
Censorship is used to protect us in many ways, which is why we have it in most cases. I for one don’t always love the restrictions in place, but I do appreciate that we are not going to be engulfed into an uncensored anarchy anytime soon.
Jordan is a senior studying psychology.
EXAMINING CENSORSHIP: UNION COLLEGE’S RESPONSIBILITY
The balance between policy and ethics
Censorship is both a problem and paradox that plagues societies past and present. What are we allowed to say? What are we allowed to produce? What should we the people know? And most crippling of all—what are we allowed to think?
Censoring is the act of suppressing, or altogether blotting out, the unacceptable parts. It might take the form jailing someone for sharing government secrets, telling the media what they may or may not say, or even not allowing a college newspaper to print the name of a concert venue (that just so happens to be on O street).
All of these are forms of censorship. It is weeding out the parts that some controlling body finds unacceptable—whether it’s because of politics or religion. As a private institution governed by the Seventh-day Adventist church and Judeo-Christian values, Union College tries to filter and censor certain things that come onto our campus and what happens or is said on our campus.
As Jordan Zy has informed, Union College not only has a right to do this, they also do it because they care for us as students and people. Certain sites are blocked, systems are in order before things can be posted on billboards, and even a dress code is in place (a truly lax code for those who haven’t attended other Adventist institutions) to ensure that we dress modestly and professionally. All of these things are to our benefit.
Union College has a right to censor materials, create clothing policies, and pass what students want to advertise on campus through a screening process (We aren’t always the most tactful and appropriate people, us college folk). But here’s the really cool part—we as students also have a right to ask—in some cases demand—a change in these systems.
We are all a family here at Union; faculty and students are in a relationship, a really great one too. We each want Union to be the best place it can be. But like any relationship, if we aren’t communicating competently and with earnestness, we will end up bitter, broken up, and in a place we don’t want to be.
Certain internet websites are blocked for our well-being. Many will notice, though, that websites that aren’t pornographic or far flung on the other side of the moral spectrum have been blocked. A site like College Humor is currently blocked on campus. the moral value of such a website can be called into question, yet is blocking it for our moral safety? Many other sites like this are blocked on campus.
Union College has a policy and an image to uphold, but it also has a responsibility to allow its students to decide some things for themselves. Some sites are painted black and white, while others might be grey.
On this campus we have a unique interaction with faculty—they are often our friends. When an act of censorship is happening to us as a student body, it’s up to us to step up, dialogue, and work toward a solution. We aren’t living in “1984” or a Aldous Huxley novel. We as students still have a way to change things for the better on our campus.
And to the Faculty: we appreciate what you do for us. You make tough decisions and work hard to make Union the best it can be for us. We love this school. We care about this school. We are all in this together.
We all want to feel safe and sound enough to be the people we truly are.
Slade is a senior studying language arts education.