Daily Archives: February 2, 2008

Free Exchange on Campus blog supports W&M students over Sex Worker Art Show controversy

Another reason why I love the AFT!The AFT is my national union and I love it because it has organized faculty across the country and we’re stronger for it. I love it because it takes academic freedom so seriously. And now I love it because, in showing its support for academic freedom, it actually, on its Free Exchange On Campus blog wrote clearly in support of the effort by students at the College of William and Mary to bring the Sex Worker Art Show to their campus .Here are some of the most important bits the blog post written by Chris Goff, one of the amazing AFT Higher Ed staffers I met recently at a leadership conference:

First the good news – a forum organized by the College of William & Mary’s Women’s Studies department on the upcoming Sex Worker’s Art Show demonstrated the college community’s willingness to engage in a discussion – an at time impassioned discussion – about controversial issues. …

Also, kudos to the Student Assembly for following the letter and spirit of the law and their own governing processes in approving funding for the show. Rather than making a decision based on the content of the show (a decision that would have been unconstitutional), student government members made their funding choices based on a well-defined set of criteria that can be applied regardless of what a particular activity is going to offer. …

Finally, kudos to the student organizers who are bringing the SWAS to campus. The show does promise to be an engaging look at important issues through the lens of sexuality and the sex work industry, mixing performance and monologues to comment on issues of racism, exploitation, and greed. Sure, it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but neither are abstract expressionism or Proust. …

Unfortunately, though not entirely unpredictably, he also tells us:

What has become abundantly clear is that the students who have organized the SWAS have – against their will – been drawn in to a political game in which they’ve been reduced to pawns to advance the agendas of others. The decision to allow the show on campus is being used to build a case against renewing the appointment of W&M President Gene Nichol, the build-up to which put the organizers in the uncomfortable position of having to decide to bring the show to campus or protect the College’s administrative leader.

Additionally, the organizers are being subjected to harassment by political leaders who have the means to further intimidate.

There is more. I encourage you to click here to read the whole post.Then, I ask that you write a note to the students organizing the show to offer your encouragement. The student groups sponsoring the show include Voices for Planned Parenthood – voxpp (at) wm (dot) edu – and Lamda Alliance (the LGBT and allies group on campus) – gaystu (at) wm (dot) edu. Tell them you applaud them for their courage in standing up for an important program despite a tremendous amount of opposition.Then drop a note to the college telling them you support their putting on the show. (One easy way to do that is to use this email form and select “W&M News” from the drop down menu of subject options.) Whatever you think about sex work, it is extremely important to support the freedom to explore controversial ideas on college campuses.Last, consider writing a letter to the editor of the The Daily Press , the local paper that’s been covering the controversy. You can also use the “reader feedback” link if you want to send them a less formal comment. Tell them you are proud of W&M for taking on controversial issues and exploring them in innovative ways.If we stop students from exploring controversial ideas on college campuses we are headed down a very dangerous path. Perversely, the ones who would lead us down that path are the very ones who put forward legislation with names like ‘Academic bill of rights’ and ‘Intellectual Diversity In Higher Education Act’.All the more evidence for the urgent need to teach students critical thinking skills! The Sex Worker Art Show is scheduled to be at College of William and Mary on February 4.This post is also published on SexInThePublicSquare.Org — kind of like here, only bigger and better. Come join us!


Filed under censorship, public discourse, sex work