intellectual freedom: yours mine and ours

I’ve been slow on posting lately. There have been big topics that I’ve been chewing on and haven’t known quite what to do with. One of the stories that I keep hoping will get more in the way of legs is the the Scott Savage/OSU story. Savage is an Ohio State University librarian. The undisputed facts of the situation read like this

Scott Savage, an OSU research librarian, was on a committee selecting a book for incoming freshmen to read. Savage, a Quaker, thought the books that were initially suggested all have a liberal bent, so he proposed four conservative ones, including The Marketing of Evil by David Kupelian.

More detail is here. What happened next is the subject of the dispute. Two professors objected to Savage’s strenuous support of a book that they felt was antagonistic towards gay people and filed harassment charged against him. You can read the official complaint here [large pdf]. There were a lot of angry reports of censorship mainly on conservative sites but the story didn’t get picked up by national media in any big way. Savage wrote about the incident for American Libraries but declined to edit it when they said they would not publish his article in full. I emailed him to ask him about the situation and the email I got from him was odd and not clarifying. According to Library Journal and American Libraries, the matter is mostly worked out and harassment charges [not sexual harassment] have been dropped, though the ACRL blog claims that Savage is now filing a complaints against his accusers. One participating faculty member has outlined his interpretation of events including stating that this is not the first time that this librarian has provoked controversy by promoting anti-gay literature.

But the news media’s coverage has missed a crucial point: the discrimination reports did not focus on the book suggestion so much as the librarian’s unyielding defense of the book, even after the revelation of its bigotry, his disparagement of faculty expertise and his forwarding of others’ e-mails to an outside organization. The claim that his proposal was tongue-in-cheek is belied by the fact that when he was employed at Lakeland Community College in 2004, he displayed an antigay book prominently, provoking controversy there, as well.

I was sort of waiting to see if the “hive mind” of the blogosphere would chew on the facts of this issue and arrive at some wisdom-of-crowds type conclusions that both sides could get behind but it seems like that is not going to be the case so I figured I’d just link it up and write it down here.

3 thoughts on “intellectual freedom: yours mine and ours

  1. Hi Jessamyn,

    Just for the record, the OSU in question is Ohio, not Oregon.

  2. I’m considering addressing this incident at the next “Banned Books Week”. Though, of course, I would like more information on the story.

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