To the Point with Michael Hogan

Michael Hogan

There is a word that has been floated around the newsroom recently, sparking debate and discussion: censorship. In college journalism, that is a very strong, and very serious, word. Within the last couple of weeks two separate student programs, a proposed exhibition with artist Annie Sprinkle in the Harbor Art Gallery and a proposed series of lectures and demonstrations on BDSM from the Queer Student Center and the UMB Wellness Center, were canceled seemingly at the last minute. So, some students have gotten fired up over the censorship issue.

Both of these programs were to be provocative. The Annie Sprinkle exhibition was to have included mammogram images, as well as other graphic images of breasts, in collages made by the artist. The BDSM lectures were to include just that, BDSM. So, yeah, these are a little outside the box, perhaps. But, should that mean they shouldn’t be allowed at a public university.

I think that the discussion of whether this is some kind of censorship or not is not really the principle discussion that needs to take place here. Why don’t we ask the question that should have been asked in the first place? What is too controversial for a public university? Should anything at all be too controversial for a public university?

I have been to two concerts so far (Kanye West and Common) where the “N” word was used like it was going out of style. Isn’t that something that might offend people? Or, does the fact that we are paying those people hundreds of thousands of dollars make that okay? So, if I can sit through concerts with that word being thrown around here on campus, why can’t I see mammograms on the wall of an art gallery? It seems to me that there really is no reason.

A public university is a place for education. Breast cancer is something that we really should be educated about, so why not do it with art? Annie Sprinkle, one of the biggest names in the modern art world, has taken the strength of battling breast cancer and made it into something beautiful. Why should be run from that? Because someone somewhere might not like it?

Seems to me like that is a ridiculous excuse. Put anything you want up in the art gallery and you are going to find someone somewhere who is not going to like it.

With something like breast cancer some people are going to be a bit wary of the subject, after all it has to do with breasts. But, breast cancer is real. It is not something to run from. Just like BDSM is also something real, so why run from that? Why not embrace these kinds of things?

Let’s say that some people did end up offended by Annie Sprinkle’s art, or by a BDSM lecture. Shouldn’t that be all the more reason to hold these kinds of things? Shouldn’t that be all the more reason to want to educate others as to the realities of today’s world?

In suppressing these types of things that seem a little different from what we may be used to, we are only fostering the kind of closed mindedness that I thought a university like ours is supposed to combat. Aren’t we a place where eyes are to be opened to the world beyond our harbor lined streets? Aren’t we a place of diversity and of education? So, let’s do that. Let’s educate, not differentiate.