On Thursday, Oct. 1 at 11:00 a.m. books from the restricted text list established by the American Library Association were read aloud by the students of California University.
The week of September 27 is the national Banned Books Week which celebrates the right to read. CalU’s chapter of the The International English Honors Society and Sigma Tau Delta hosted a Banned Book Readout with the theme of ‘censorship’.
“In large and small ways, it has to do with the text students are not exposed to in pivotal years that have been kept out of curriculum,” Dr. Kimberly Vanderlaan said.
Dr. Vanderlaan has been the long standing advisor for six years while holding a seat on 25 other committees. Her interest in the organization grew by discovering the diverse group of students that were “motivated to bring literary events to the CalU campus”.
The event this year was held virtually through Zoom after participating students signed up to read a passage off the banned and censored book list provided to them by Sigma Tau. The Zoom was scheduled during common hour for students to be able to express themselves and for the campus to watch as students and faculty read aloud their favorite excerpts from books that landed themselves on a long list of prohibited books from academic use.
This year’s Banned Book Readout had a large participation with 20 attendees. The ability to reach students without having to host a physical event was a concern for senior Kortnie Gould, who is the current president .
“We may have larger participation from students since it’s at the convenience of their home.
Representation matters and we could really learn from the censored materials,” Gould said.
Dr. Rodney Taylor, a new addition to the Sigma Tau advisor team, mentioned the event to his students after partaking in a similar experience himself at Indiana University of Pennsylvania while obtaining his doctorate.
“We have to see what and why things are being censored, it shows us we need to look closer. If we take a look at why things are being censored then we can see why it would deserve our attention in the first place,” Dr. Taylor said.
The goal of Sigma Tau is to encourage the opportunities offered to students through English and Literature. Sigma Tau Delta is open for all students regardless of their major. With GPA and English grade requirements, students are encouraged to get involved by emailing either Dr. Taylor at [email protected] or Kortnie Gould at [email protected]
Previous activities for the organization have included poetry readings, art nights, the Christmas Pop Concert in Pittsburgh and dinners held to organize the semester’s plans.
“Once you’re in, you’re in for life,” Dr. Vanderlaan said. The organization has grown on the campus and is expected to draw from the incoming freshman to replenish the prior graduating seniors. She hopes that “students see the value in times changing, insight into passages, and the importance of freedom of expression.”
Censorship has a long standing history in America dating back to the earliest of writings and has taken on a variety of meanings since. The week is set aside to celebrate the rights to public reading through publishing and education without restriction.
“I think it means you are obstructing someone’s access to something that people may want to see or in fact should be seeing,” Dr. Taylor said, “I hope this readout is something that becomes a tradition at Cal U for faculty, students, and staff. I hope it can grow into something bigger.”