UHV, VC celebrate freedom with ‘Read Out’

Students at both the University of Houston-Victoria and The Victoria College can celebrate their freedom to read by attending the VC/UHV Library’s “Read Out” event from 10 to 11:30 a.m. Sept. 29 in the library’s leisure reading area.

The community also is encouraged to attend in observance of Banned Books Week from Sept. 26 through Oct. 3.

Students and other volunteers will begin and end the event with five-minute readings from a selection of banned or challenged books and present the reason for the ban or challenge. Lawrence F. Rossow, dean of the UHV School of Education & Human Development, also is scheduled to speak at the event.

A former professor in the College of Law at the University of Oklahoma and author of the book “Education Law: Cases and Materials,” Rossow will talk about the application of the 1982 Island Tree School District v. Pico decision used as the controlling Supreme Court decision on censorship or banning of school library books.  He will describe the process of challenging a book and how the law provides guidance to state agencies when books are challenged.

“School boards may control the acquisition of books, but once the book is in the library, it may not be removed by the school board,” Rossow said. “It is up to the student to decide what to read and what not to read.”

Launched in 1982 and sponsored by the American Library Association, Banned Books Week was organized in response to this critical court decision and the sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. Thousands of books have been challenged since that time.  People in every state have challenged books based on their content, targeting such things as profanity, sexuality and violence or portrayals of racial or religious groups.

Books challenged within the last five years include “His Dark Materials” by Phillip Pullman, the “Gossip Girl” series by Cecily von Ziegesar, “The Kite Runner” by Khaled Hosseni and “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.”

But any attempt to censor even one book is a threat to the First Amendment rights to freedom of speech and press, according to the Banned Books Week organization.  Even slight controversy can drive authors, publishers and booksellers away from writing, publishing or selling certain material.

“If there is a bedrock principle underlying the First Amendment, it is that the government may not prohibit the expression of an idea simply because society finds the idea itself offensive or disagreeable,” U.S. Supreme Court Justice William Brennan stated in Texas v. Johnson.

For more information about the event, call the VC/UHV Library at 361-570-4166.

The University of Houston-Victoria, located in the heart of the Coastal Bend region since 1973 in Victoria, Texas, offers courses leading to more than 80 academic programs in the schools of Arts & Sciences; Business Administration; and Education, Health Professions & Human Development. UHV provides face-to-face classes at its Victoria campus, as well as an instructional site in Katy, Texas, and online classes that students can take from anywhere. UHV supports the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Opportunities for All initiative to increase awareness about state colleges and universities and the important role they have in providing a high-quality and accessible education to an increasingly diverse student population, as well as contributing to regional and state economic development.

Paula Cobler