Student’s film removed from Boston University classroom

NCAC recently fielded a plea for help from a Boston University student filmmaker, at the College of Communication, whose film Wake Up had been removed from regular class consideration and critique for reasons which depended very much on point of view. The student thought it was art. The faculty called it pornography.

What was not in dispute was that the student had included sexually explicit content in the film, his choice consciously made to point up the limits of allowable expression in the forums in which he and his peers work. From Prof. Charlie Anderson’s perspective, however, the work was “pornographic” and “created a hostile environment for my students.” Prof. Anderson and his colleagues cited the BU sexual harassment policy as their grounds for excluding the film from regular consideration and made significant efforts to navigate what they judged to be choppy waters: the strait between the Scylla of sexually-harassing students and the Charybdis of censoring their work.

BU’s College of Communication deserves an A- for effort but a C for execution. In the NCAC’s view, BU’s sexual harassment policy is not rightly applied to restrict the content of student artwork offered in good faith for the completion of class assignments. In its letter to Dr. Tammy Vigil, Associate Dean of BU’s College of Communication, NCAC articulated its position:

Screening a sexually explicit film in the context of a university-level filmmaking class attended by a mixed group of college-age students may be troubling, challenging, even offensive to some, but it does not constitute sexual harassment according to BU’s policy as it simply does not represent “pervasive” or “severe” conduct “directed at an individual.” To assert the policy in this case twists it to serve the goal of segregating controversial material and, we believe, does a disservice to sexual harassment’s real victims.

The prejudicial segregation and exclusion from the educational process of material troubling to some opens the door to removal of other content deemed offensive (whether sexual, political, religious, etc.), a bad precedent to set, especially at the College of Communication. College offers young artists, writers and filmmakers the chance to experiment, test boundaries, explore different creative paths, and even to be provocative. Discriminating against work that may be disturbing or offensive interferes with that process. After all, many well-regarded films, artworks and novels contain sexually explicit – or otherwise controversial – content. Explicit sexual content has an established place in film history: Baise-moi, Fireworks, Flaming Creatures, In the Realm of the Senses, Irreversible, Last Tango in Paris, all are examples of controversial works without which the history of film would be much the poorer. Students may or may not yet wield skills and techniques equal to the power of the material they choose, but that is exactly what their education is for.

NCAC recommended that in future, COM should insure students’ creative freedom by reminding them that serious studies may bring encounters with material they personally dislike or even find disturbing. BU should clearly remind its students and faculty of its own policy: that “[n]o university can or should guarantee that every idea expressed in its classrooms or laboratories will be inoffensive to all; pursued seriously, education and scholarship necessarily entail raising questions about received opinions and conventional interpretations.” We heartily agree.

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17 Responses to Student’s film removed from Boston University classroom

  1. David H. says:

    How strange it is in a country so justly proud of free speech and academic freedom
    that there are censors lurking in their ivy covered towers.
    It’s curious to note that in a college setting where open-mindedness , debate , artistic and literary ambitions should be encouraged- they are subject to being
    censored or squashed.

    Sound to me, that Prof Andeson has dogmatic notions that are just to the right
    of Anthony Comstock. At least that’s my opinion.

  2. David H. says:

    Why is it that in a country so justly proud of free speech and academic freedom, there are college professors in ivy towers playing the role censors and thought police?

    It’s curious to note that in a college setting where open-mindedness , debate ,
    artistic and literary ambitions should be encouraged, are instead – discouraged
    and squashed!

    Obviously, Prof Anderson at BU has dogmatic notions just to the right of Anthony
    Comstock. Anyway that’s my opinion

  3. Norman Belk says:

    One must note that Banned in Boston, a service that always increases the popularity of any item, now applies to Boston’s Universities.

  4. Dylan Nimz says:

    i believe that the video shouldnt be censored. The kids have freedom of speech and the only people making a big deal is the admistration and the professors. The person must put his ideas and beliefs into a video and i think it should be alright.

  5. Sammy Willing says:

    I believe that this should not be censored because it is the kids choice if they would like to view it or not. It is freedom of speech, therefore they have the right to do what they want. If the person put their ideas, or what they believe in the video, then it should be okay. This is my view on if the video should be censored or not.

  6. Sammy Willing says:

    I believe that this should not be censored because it is the kids choice if they would like to view it or not. It is freedom of speech, therefore they have the right to do what they want. If the person put their ideas, or what they believe in the video, then it should be okay. This is my view on if the video should be censored or not.

    Dylan-i believe that it shouldnt be censored because its freedom of speech. It is the peoples choice to view the video or not. The only people that make a big deal out of it, are the professors and the kids dont even do anything about it.

  7. Kota says:

    I agree to this article, because I think that you should know that everything a student can show in the classroom needs to be appropriate. There is only some cases where people can show more, and that is if you are teaching things that include sexual explicits. If the film was educational I would have to say you should be able to show it. Everyone has their own view on subjects of different matters, and this intercepts the view of the freedom of speech. You should be able to wear a wrist band that supports a cause, if you really believe in it.

  8. Jen Busse says:

    I think this flim should NOT! be showned because it is distorping to the person that had to be in or if some who have to see it may think. This is not right.Its rude to show this in any Class what would the girls in the class think the boys may treat the girls different what in any was makes this right for anyone?!?! If the person thinks its art its there opinon not mine but my opinon is that its bad and should be BANDDED!!!! form the class!!!!!

  9. Taylor B says:

    I think that this should be banned because we have the freedome to say what ever we want but there is some things that you shouldnt put at school. It isnt appropriate for school do it on your own time.

  10. Brayden Reese says:

    I think movies should not be censored in colloge because by now everyone should have seen a boob. As long as its not full on porn, because it would be very werid to watch porn with lots of people.

  11. Jonathan says:

    It should be censored. It has parts that are too gross for young viewers. It wouldn’t go wandering around their minds. It would make a viewer perverted if he/she enjoyed it. It has some things that a viewer may not want to see.

  12. Brandon G says:

    I think that this video should not be censored if this video gives information that the students did not know. If there isn’t more than 10 minutes of nudity, college students will be able to handle this. Most college students know about the “parts” females and males have. As long as this video is rated towards college students, I think they should be able to handle this video.

  13. Kurt says:

    This type of Video should be banned from college would they would not stand this is a public high school then why should they have to allow it in a College. This type of video is offensive to allot of people, but if they have to show it, it should be MAJORLY Censed. Our founding fathers did not mean with this freedom when they wrote the constitution if anyone back in 1776 did something like this like in a poster or something would have been Tarred and feathered.

  14. Abbie says:

    I think that the film shouln’t be censored because it was submited to the teacher as an art piece, not to make the teacher unconfortable or anything of the sort. The artist made something that he thought was art, and if someone else can’t see that right away, they need to try to look through the eyes of the artist and see how the artist see’s his/her art.

  15. David Jenkins says:

    I think the film shouldn’t be sensored because the student has a right to free speach. Just because he is in school doesn’t mean he loses his right to free speach. This is very similar to the court case in 1969 when kids wore black armbands to school to protest the Vietnam War. They had the same rights to wear the wrist band as the student does to show the video.

  16. Katlyn borgrud says:

    I don’t think that this flim should be censored. I beleive this because every person has their own way of showing their art. They have the right to express themselfs just like in the articles “Does the constitution have a heart for boobies?”. These braclets were banned from a high school and the school suspended these girls for wearing them and the girls sued the girls. which is also like in a case in 1969 the supreme court uhelf the 1st amendment right of students who had worm balck armbands emblazoned with a peace symbol to school.

  17. Mariam Ahady says:

    The movie should be censored because some students and teachers may find them offensive, and also the school board does not allow to play such film for kids because, School avoids discomfort and unpleasantness. For some people and it is the same as one of the court cases “In that 1969 case, the Supreme Court upheld the 1st Amendment rights of students who had worn black armbands emblazoned with a peace symbol to school, protesting the Vietnam War”.

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