Campus television shouldn’t be censored

    Last week, Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Joseph W. mandated a new administrative committee that will review content guidelines for student-run closed-circuit television, much to the dismay of many Student-Run Television members and the guys who used to play pornography on the Thurgood Marshall College television channel.

    The committee’s mission is to “[clarify] what are the governing structures for the closed-circuit television stations and determine how content is governed,” according to Watson.

    One might imagine, however, that it is not so much a lack of clarity in the rules but rather a disregard for them that has led Watson to take action. Although the committee may be described as an instrument of “clarification,” its function may well be more far-reaching.

    It is a body designed to oversee and enforce previously instated rules and regulations — in other words, to potentially censor material deemed inappropriate by the powers that be.

    This is not to suggest that censorship is necessarily a bad thing. Like many things, censorship is not a matter of black and white but of infinite shades of gray. For example, censorship plays an important role in protecting viewers from content that they would find offensive, and some mechanisms must exist to protect viewers from such content. However, there is a danger that censorship will impede the open flow of ideas and knowledge. For this reason, one of the fundamental principles of this country (and Western society as a whole) is the freedom of speech. The question therefore is not whether there should or should not be censorship, but rather to what extent, employed by whom, and how.

    One of the best things about our campus (no, it’s not the amazing night life) is that it provides the opportunity for students to jump outside the traditional bubble of conscience. Students at UCSD should be encouraged to break molds and think in unique and diverse ways. After all, this is what college is ultimately all about — not the degree, but the thought and effort that are required to earn it.

    In being open and free in thought, we have the right (and hopefully the judgment) to make our own decisions about school, sex, drugs — and yes, even television. Indeed, there very well may be “inappropriate” material on university TV, but aren’t we, as discerning adults, able to change the channel? Isn’t a quick flip of the remote a small price to pay to reserve the freedom of thought and speech on campus?

    If the new committee takes on an oversight roll, it will essentially steal this choice from us. We‘ll no longer have the right to decide whether certain content is free speech or just plain offensive because a committee will now do that for us.

    For example, it was reported in May, that “obscene” material was aired at Thornton Hospital, although the nature of such material remains unidentified. Although what was played may very well have been inappropriate, that an entity outside of UCSD can dictate the freedom of speech on campus is a step in the wrong direction.

    After all, what might be inappropriate to one is free speech to another. Earl Warren College Resident Dean Claire Palmer, who has been appointed to the committee, shut down Warren College Television after it aired the beheading of American hostage Nicholas Berg, a move that angered some students.

    Out of respect for Berg and his family, it’s not hard to see why Palmer deemed such material offensive. As ugly as it is, however, the video provides a unique insight into what is happening in Iraq and the world. With elections so close, students should have the freedom to see issues outside the rosy interpretations of American media.

    Furthermore, the committee itself has only a single student representative. Since UCSD television is essentially made for students, by students, shouldn’t it ultimately be students who dictate its content? Whether it is intended or not, a body constituted by the administration will reflect the biases of — you guessed it — the administration.

    This is a huge mistake and endangers the facility of independent thought at UCSD. We should be encouraging stronger voices independent of the administration, not softer ones that adhere to it.

    Watson’s interest in censoring university television is completely understandable and an oversight committee may well be in order. However, the opportunity for students to both voice and hear opinions that are free and independent (even when others find them offensive) is fundamental to the university experience. We must therefore be very cautious in this endeavor. Any such committee should be composed principally of students, with the goal of promoting, not “clarifying,” the independent voices of the university.

    In the long run, the university should protect free and open media (even if it, unfortunately, sometimes displays pornography) rather than denying students the chance to make their own decisions about what is, and what is not, appropriate to watch.

    More to Discover
    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal

    Your donation will support the student journalists at University of California, San Diego. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment, keep printing our papers, and cover our annual website hosting costs.

    Donate to The UCSD Guardian
    $200
    $500
    Contributed
    Our Goal