F&M Stories

First "Campus Hour" Features Panel on Banned Books

Empty shelves.

Franklin & Marshall College faculty and staff will be joined by local librarians and school board candidates at the upcoming Campus Hour discussion, “Who’s Afraid of Banned Books? The Rise of Book Censorship in the U.S.” The event will be held Thursday, Sept. 14, at 11:30 a.m. in Bonchek Lecture Hall. 

The panel, which is co-sponsored by the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House and the College Library, follows a similar event that was held at the Writers House in April. Kerry Sherin Wright, Director of the Writers House, said the April Q&A was a valuable learning experience.

“There was a lot we didn’t know about why there was an increase in banned and challenged books in the United States,” Wright said. Students and participants were eager to continue the conversation, and the College Library agreed to co-sponsor a Campus Hour program.

Scott Vine, director of F&M College Libraries, hopes to share the impact of book bans with a wider audience. While the College Library receives occasional requests to remove materials, “local school districts and school boards face much more organized efforts to control what students have access to,” Vine said. 

Also on the panel will be Stephen Medvic, the Honorable and Mrs. John C. Kunkel Professor of Government. Medvic plans to discuss the complicated ways book bans intersect with local and national politics.

“I’m interested in the politics of banned books,” Medvic said. “What’s motivating the attempt to remove certain books from libraries? Is this a grassroots effort or is it organized nationally? What’s the best way, again politically speaking, to respond to such efforts?”

Cindy Wingenroth, a candidate for Warwick School Board who will participate in Thursday’s panel, has witnessed such efforts firsthand and was motivated to get more involved in her local school board.

“I started attending meetings and was alarmed by what I was hearing during public comments,” especially by calls for book bans, Wingenroth said. She joined others who shared her concerns in running for the school board.

“We have a number of reasons we are running to protect public education in our community, but high on that list is certainly our view that public schools need to maintain a breadth of resources for our students and teachers to access,” Wingenroth said.

Wright said that challenged books often include discussions of “hot-button” topics such as racism, gender identity, and social inequality. F&M students in the Writers House community worry that removing such books from school libraries makes it difficult for students from a variety of backgrounds to see themselves represented in literature.

Below, hear from some of the students who helped to plan this event about their favorite banned books and why they are passionate about this topic:


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