Controversy surrounding a sexual column run in Lyndon State College’s newspaper has gotten Castleton students talking, but not just about sex.The column, written by student Jordan Royer in a recent edition of Lyndon State’s newspaper, stirred up debate when performing arts professor Elizabeth Norris both publicly criticized the article and urged that Royer be expelled.
Norris claimed that Royer’s column entitled ‘Holy Sheet,’which most recently featured an article about talking dirty over AIM and how to have sex and masturbate without getting caught by your roommate, demeaned the integrity of the school’s paper, The Critic.
Norris also said that Royer neglected a responsibility to appeal to the community as a whole after a grade school teacher brought copies of The Critic to show her elementary-aged students examples of college writing.
When the last edition of The Spartan ran a story about what has now turned into this scandal of sorts at Lyndon, sociology Professor Lois Wunderley quickly made room in her lesson plan for a discussion.
“I knew I had to respond to what was happening,” she said. “When something relevant falls into your lap, it would be wrong to ignore it. I wanted to hear what my students thought.”
Wunderley’s Gender Studies class, which has almost an evenly divided mix of males and females, meets three times a week to discuss “the social gender expectations that impact our lives,” according to Wunderley. And as she had hoped and expected, the students had plenty to say.
The class members who spoke up were all in strong agreement that the article’s content was appropriate for a college newspaper, especially bearing the column’s intent in mind.
“It’s obvious that [the article] wasn’t an educational piece, but instead something humorous to make people laugh. I would think any college student or staff would be able to tell that it was a satire,” Justin Jackson said.
When the discussion changed to the grade school students being affected, their opinions on propriety changed, but they also held accountable the faculty at both Lyndon and the elementary school.
“If the concern in this matter is really the elementary school kids, then the real blame should fall on the teacher who gave them the newspapers,” said student Colleen Loper, who has children herself. “Teachers of especially kids that age should proofread anything they hand to their students.”
Members of the class went on to say that Norris’ claims that The Critic should serve the community as a whole rather than just the campus were irrelevant.
“To say that the college paper has to serve the entire community is ridiculous, especially since that’s based only on the possibility that someone from outside of the college will try to use it out of context,” said student Chad Poljacik.
As the article in the last edition of The Spartan mentioned, Castleton’s own Deb Choma expressed her particular distress over how much of a dilemma this is causing, and some of the class members questioned the quality or even existence of a comparable sex education figure at Lyndon.
“You have to wonder if Lyndon has anything like ‘Sex With Deb’ or any sort of sex ed program at their school, because I feel like if this happened here, it wouldn’t be a big deal at all,” said one member of the class.
Another student offered, “It would be interesting if our paper ran a similar column to see if the controversy follows us here.”
It did become clear by the end of the class though that it was not the topic of sex that fueled the conversation, but the principles of free speech.
“If this student had a weekly column and it went through the college paper, someone saw and approved this article before it got printed, so it’s not just the student who should be attacked,” said student Brett Quillia. “Just because one person doesn’t like it and that person happens to be a professor leaves no grounds to take away someone’s free expression.