Censoring sex commonplace at private schools

Editorial Board / Washburn Review

Sex and censorship: It’s only fitting for the two to go hand-in-hand.

Enter The Campus, the newspaper of Ottawa University, a small private university affiliated with American Baptist Churches USA. The school of 600 students sits roughly 30 minutes south of Lawrence, Kan.

Recently, The Campus presented a tabloid-sized issue completely devoted to discovering the ends-and-outs, literally and metaphorically, of sex and relationships, love and relationships, abstinence, and more.

Considering The Baker Orange, Kansas State Collegian, Washburn Review, University Daily Kansan and many other Kansas college newspapers have covered the issue, the topic seems documented well enough to not cause too much stir.

But everyone knows about assumptions. While it is currently unknown who exactly the culprit(s) may be, The Campus’ newspapers were stolen on the afternoon of Feb. 18. The newspaper had received complaints from faculty, but having the papers lifted from the stands crosses a line.

Had the information been offensive and not factual, there might be a fair argument. However, despite raising eyebrows, the information could be of service to the students of the university.

A front cover graphic depicts a naked Barbie and Ken doll in a provocative pose while sitting in front of one of the university’s most well-known buildings. Yes, this is pushing lines and ultimately, it may be most of why the paper was removed. But isn’t it also art, photography and free expression?

Private universities seem to have a different set of rules regarding freedom of the press. According to the Student Press Law Center’s website: “while independence may be an attractive alternative, it does not overcome the ability of a private school to limit distribution of a publication on its campus or to punish students for their off-campus expression.”

There are two sides to be argued here. A school with a religious affiliation has a set of standards it’s often held to, but students should also be free to speak about subjects that may be considered offensive in order to help inform and educate students. The fact that stories also discussed the practice of not having sexual intercourse may lean the argument in the favor of The Campus staff.

If this issue was published at Washburn, faculty may also feel uncomfortable and offended by the topic and possible depictions through graphics, however, with the amount of attention given to the subject by other media, it would hardly be considered extraordinary by most.

So, while The Campus files a police report for theft, The Review staff will rest on its laurels momentarily and enjoy its First Amendment freedoms.