Arnold Bernhard Library honors Banned Books Week


Jack Spiegel

Quinnipiac University’s Arnold Bernhard Library hosts “Banned Books, Canceling and the Freedom to Learn” Sept. 21, 2022 during Banned Books Week.

Jacklyn Pellegrino, Copy Editor

Quinnipiac University’s Arnold Bernhard Library hosted an event titled “Banned Books, Canceling and the Freedom to Learn” Sept. 21 during Banned Books Week.

At the discussion, five panelists of various academic backgrounds discussed books being restricted by administrators in schools of all levels, what literature students are exposed to and the negative effects limiting this information can have on students.

“We’re talking about what it means for us to live in this environment that is hyperpolarized in terms of ideas and also in terms of our resistance to certain ideas and how that’s being played out in different facets,” said JT Torres, director of the center for teaching and learning, assistant teaching professor of english and event panelist.

According to The New York Times, parents, school administrators and government officials in the U.S. are challenging books faster than ever. The American Library Association received 330 reports of book challenges in fall of 2021.

As an educator, Torres said students go to college to get exposed to new ideas and to grow and work through ideas even if they are uncomfortable. But, he said that “the science of learning is a balance of comfort and discomfort.”

“One thing I tell (first-year introduction to academic reading and writing students) is that if they graduate from college, and they still hold the same beliefs and ideas that they came to college with, college might have failed you,” Torres said. “At some point, at some level, we are here to change. Otherwise, we didn’t need to come here.”

Katie Bauer, associate director for collection development and management and event panelist, oversees the Arnold Bernhard Library’s collection of books. She said there is a professional code of ethics that librarians follow.

“At the core, the most important thing that we are supposed to do is to uphold the principles of intellectual freedom, freedom to read and resist all efforts to censor library resources,” Bauer said.

Kearston Wesner, associate professor of media studies and event panelist, said the banning of books can challenge the First Amendment, which protects free speech.

“The first thing you need to know about the First Amendment is that we’re dealing with government restrictions on speech and that would extend to things like school boards or administrators censoring student’s speech and so these are going to invoke big First Amendment questions,” Wesner said.

Vivian Quinlan, a graduate student in the elementary master of arts in teaching program and event panelist, said she wrote her undergraduate capstone paper on four banned books, why they were being banned and what they had in common.

“I wrote about how books allow people to find their own identity and place in the world and I think books are being banned because systems and power do not want students to find their place in the world,” Quinlan said. “But rather, they want to tell students their place in the world.”

She said that banning books from libraries is “shutting down” the chance of having conversations about race, gender and sexuality.

According to the American Library Association Office for Intellectual Freedom, three of the top most challenged books in 2021 were “Gender Queer” by Maia Kobabe, “Lawn Boy” by Jonathan Evison and “All Boys Aren’t Blue” by George M. Johnson. They were banned for LGBTQ content as well as because they were considered to be sexually explicit.

Quinlan said that as a future educator, she began to worry about what would happen if her students didn’t have access to certain books that “transformed their thinking” because she believes that diversity and representation are “extremely important” in literature.

Mordechai Gordon, professor and chair of education and event panelist, shared his perspective on the topic based on the book he wrote titled “Education in a Cultural War Era: Thinking Philosophically about the Practice of Cancelling.”

Patricia Rondini, a part-time faculty member who teaches English, attended the event and encouraged her students to go to the event because she said she teaches her students to look at everything from “multiple lenses.”

“Not only put yourself and your own past history into it but other possible cultures and religions…looking at things from a different point of view that we would have never done before and then to think about that and how they all go together,” Rondini said. 

Diana Rodriguez, a first-year undeclared major who attended the event said she also felt that banning books is more about censorship. In addition, she said the banning of books in the classroom would lead to students being “unfulfilled.”

“Obviously, we can’t know all the information in the world but I feel like we should have a good idea on a number of topics to fully be able to go into the world, ready to help as many people as we can,” Rodriguez said.

To conclude the event, all panelists gave final remarks about what students can do and where they can go with the ideas presented.

“I would just ask people, if you think that’s an important topic, when you hear about challenges and book bans, maybe in your communities, speak up and support teachers in schools that get accused of sharing bad material, speak up for librarians and speak up for authors,” Bauer said.