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Meetings Focus on Freedom of Expression

Freedom of expression and community values will take center stage at LBCC in a pair of discussions around controversial art and campus policy.

On Wednesday, May 16, the LBCC Board of Education will consider revisions to the college’s policy on academic freedom and responsibility. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. in the Boardroom of the Calapooia Center on the Albany campus (Room CC-103). The meeting will be an opportunity for community members to voice their opinions concerning the policy.

One of the key topics at the board meeting is expected to be the North Santiam Gallery exhibit fall term 2017, and more specifically, three controversial pieces from this exhibit, which portrayed homosexual fornication. In a personal email sent to community members, LBCC Board Member Keith Frome expressed his disapproval of the choice in art, and how the following controversy was handled.

Earlier in the day Wednesday, from 10:30 a.m. to noon, LB’s Civil Discourse Club will mediate a panel discussion held in the LBCC Library. The panel evolved over the last several months to keep the topic of freedom of expression current. It is intended to give students a voice in the discussion over what should be freedom of expression on campus and what should not.

“As librarians we have really strong opinions against censorship,” said Michaela Hooper, a librarian at LBCC who is helping to organize the event.

The American Library Association, of which Hooper is a part, believes that they should not restrict access to books based on vulgar language or sensitive issues.

“The best antidote to free expression, is more free expression,” said Hooper.

Panelists at the library event include: LBCC instructors Sandra Shinkle and Keith Tierney, Richenda Hawkins, and ACLU of Oregon Board Member Stuart Kaplan.

Hawkins, an LB librarian and current president of the campus Faculty Association, has been involved with drafting the proposed campus policy revision. She too talked about the importance of academic freedom and freedom of expression.

“It’s important that we band together and protect the academic freedom of our faculty,” said Hawkins. “We don’t want them to feel like their jobs are in peril or threatened because they’re doing their job.”

Hawkins said different professions are judged by different creative standards.

“I have learned that how we judge what is acceptable and in the realm of academic freedom, it’s not anything goes, but it’s by the professional standards of that particular discipline,” said Hawkins.

“So the professional standards of the art discipline are pretty different than even journalism. You probably wouldn’t publish the same type of imagery on the front cover of a newspaper.”

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