Banned Books Week Reminds Us That, Even on College Campuses, Censorship Happens

October 3, 2012

Fahrenheit 451 Cover

FIRE is commemorating Banned Books Week in accordance with the American Library Association this week.

From the ALA website:

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read. Typically held during the last week of September, it highlights the value of free and open access to information. Banned Books Week brings together the entire book community — librarians, booksellers, publishers, journalists, teachers, and readers of all types — in shared support of the freedom to seek and to express ideas, even those some consider unorthodox or unpopular.

While it’s tempting to think that college students are completely safe from book censorship, remember: It was only four years ago, in 2008, that a student employee, Keith Sampson, was found guilty of "racial harassment" for reading a book. Sampson’s case reminds us that book censorship doesn’t always have to be as cut-and-dry as removing as them from libraries. Censorship is always damaging to the exchange of ideas. It is especially important on college campuses to recognize this fact.

In college, assigned reading is obviously crucial. However, the freedom to read controversial material is just as important. You cannot learn if you cannot read, and you cannot freely exchange ideas if you cannot read things that are unpopular or controversial. The mere concept of prohibiting books should be seen as antithetical to the mission of modern America’s colleges and universities. Sadly, as Sampson’s case reminds us, censorship often isn’t seen that way.

See more about Banned Books Week on the ALA website.