English department faculty are individually responsible for choosing which texts and other materials (films, videotapes, audiotapes, websites) students in their courses are to be assigned, and, more importantly, how these are to be used to advance the specific aims of these courses. Insofar as English faculty, like those in other departments, are evaluated by their peers in part on the basis of their teaching, faculty use of curricular materials is subject to peer evaluation.
The Department recognizes that a student may find assigned materials objectionable, on whatever grounds, and honors students’ right to express such a response freely, and the importance of so doing. However, the department does not view students’ experience of such a response as legitimate grounds for excusing students from reading, viewing, or listening to such materials.
This policy should not be construed to condone sexual or other harassment, by faculty or by students, in the conduct of courses. For a full description of the University’s policies and procedures, see the Drake University Student Handbook, Appendix B, Community, Diversity, Freedom of Expression and Harassment and the Student Resource Guide Pertaining to Sexual Misconduct.
First, to treat the possibility that students might find a given text, film, or other object of analysis objectionable as grounds for excusing the students from confronting it would be to assume that meaning resides purely in the materials themselves rather than arising from the complex interaction of text, audience, and circumstance.
Second, it would inevitably lead to faculty self-censorship in choosing curricular materials at odds with the function of the university as a place for the exploration of ideas and perspectives different than one’s own: in the words of the mission statement, Drake's commitment "to a robust spirit of inquiry, a lively exchange of ideas and the personal interaction among faculty, staff and students."
Third, it would place students in the position of bearing no responsibility for their reactions, a position antithetical to Drake's commitment to "student-centered learning." No one can deny a reader's reaction to a text, but in the context of the university such reactions, whatever they may be, should be viewed as providing the opportunity for inquiry into the production of meaning, not grounds for ending inquiry.