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Censorship Issues On Clark Campus

Saturday, March 17, 2012

 

This poster was not allowed in dorms on campus

Clark University is a school that prides itself on being open-minded, but a recent disagreement between the theater department and Residence Life and Housing (RLH) policies has called up questions of censorship on campus.

The poster for Clark’s newest play, Pooter McGraw Is Not Dead Party, features staged images of students consuming drugs and alcohol, which is something Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students, Denise Darrigrand, is not comfortable having in the dorms. On the other side, head of theater and Clark graduate of ‘83, Gino DiIorio, is calling this an act of censorship that is discouraging free thought and belittling Clark students.

Clark isn't what it used to be

“I find this censorship appalling,” said Professor DiIorio. “Clark used to be a university that encouraged creative and academic freedom. We held our students to a high standard. We asked them to be mature and thoughtful and we trusted that they could make good decisions on these matters on their own. We encouraged them to be independent thinkers. Now we’re treating them like school children.”

The poster was designed by Mahmoud Abdalrahman, who according to DiIorio does a lot of designs for the department.

As the play’s title suggests, drug and alcohol use are relevant to the subject of the play. Pooter McGraw Is Not Dead Party follows six college friends who reunite because of the sudden death of a friend. This causes the group to question their lives, motives, and friendships.

Posters were brought to the RLH office, which approves anything put up in the residence halls.

According to Darrigrand, the photos on the poster conflict with Campus Posting policy, which states: “No flyer may contain references to drugs or alcohol unless it is an information flyer (i.e. alcohol and drug awareness or awareness information).”

“In addition, there were strong concerns raised about asking [Resident Advisors] to hang the posters in their halls where they work to address alcohol and drug issues,” Darrigrand said. “Based on both of these, I made the decision that the posters not be hung in the halls by RA’s.”

Dean Darrigrand stated that the policy is not hers to change and that she is currently “trying to figure out” who originally created it.

Despite these points, DiIorio believes this to be inexcusable at a school like Clark, and that posters that are deal with the arts should be held to a different set of rules.

“As a faculty member and an artist, I'm very upset and disappointed. This is censorship, plain and simple. It is demeaning to our students and assumes that they cannot make up their own minds regarding these issues,” he said. “Can you imagine me saying to anyone ‘Clark University discourages free thought’? Sadly, this has very little to do with challenging convention.”

Dumbing down an institution?

Indeed, Clark’s motto, “Challenge Convention, Change Our World,” is not so well reflected in this policy. DiIorio also believes that practices like this are “dumbing down” institutions and placing needless barriers on art.

“This kind of activity is ‘highschoolization’ of the institution… This is demeaning to our students and basically runs counter to everything I love about Clark,” he said. DiIorio added that after a few correspondences with Darrigrand, she is no longer answering his emails concerning the issue but is willing to meet with him and others to possibly rewrite the policy.

“Once I [figure out who initially wrote the policy] I will put together the appropriate people to discuss making changes to it. It is not an easy issue and one where I think we all see both sides of it,” she said.

DiIorio stated that he had never had something like this happen, and that members of the cast found it to be ridiculous.

“Clark needs to be at the vanguard of these kinds of freedom. Somehow, we've managed to move in the other direction.”

Hopefully, issues like this will not happen in the future, with hopes that the Dean will meet with members of campus to change the policy, potentially making an exception for works of art. Clark has historically been known as a liberal institution, and something like this comes as a surprise to both students and faculty.

The play opened Wednesday, March 14th at the Michelson Theater at the Little Center on Charlotte Street. The play will be running tonight and Saturday, as well as the 21st – 24th at 7:30 p.m. all nights. The event is $5 or free with a college ID.
 

 

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