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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Threats limit creativity

Early this semester, the UA Creative Writing program sent an e-mail to creative writing instructors stating that students who submit inappropriate work should be disciplined.

The e-mail, sent out on Feb. 5 to all 200-level creative writing instructors, discussed information regarding the beginning of the semester, such as administrative drops. The second item in the e-mail pertained solely to student work.

“”If you receive any student work that seems inappropriate to you — graphic sex or violence, material that could be construed as representing others in the classroom — you should discuss this with me,”” said Aurelie Sheehan, Director of the Creative Writing program, in the e-mail. “”Inappropriate work should not be brought to workshop and the student should be disciplined appropriately, based on the severity of the problem.””

Prior to this e-mail, a student was disciplined by the dean of the College of Humanities for submitting an English paper in a workshop class, which inappropriately referenced the teacher of the class.

Though the department routinely sends out an e-mail at the beginning of the semester to all instructors, this information on student content was added after the recent incident, Sheehan said.

“”I sent the e-mail out for a variety of reasons. I usually send 201/209/210 instructors a ‘checking in’ e-mail early in the semester. But yes, that bulleted item in the e-mail was included as a reminder in part because of the incident,”” Sheehan said.

Tenaya Snider, a freshman majoring in English with a minor in creative writing, said the instructor of her Introduction to Poetry class told her about the e-mail sent out by the department.

“”That’s a hard line to define in writing. I feel for the most part it should be up to the discretion of the student, not the instructors,”” she said. “”All of us shouldn’t be limited because one person’s an idiot.””

The e-mail was not a change in the creative writing program’s policy on student content, Sheehan said.

“”We don’t have a policy, except that we have to try and enforce the law around the issue of making personal threats to individuals,”” said Jason Brown, Director of Undergraduate English. “”When it comes to policy, we only mobilize the forces … when there’s a credible threat.””

Persona, the undergraduate magazine for art and literature, has also received student submissions that could be interpreted as threatening, said Elisa Meza, publicity director of the magazine.

“”In my reading group we read this piece of short fiction … it was told in first person, so he woke up one morning and decided to pick up his gun, put it in his bag, go to campus and just shoot up some people,”” Meza said. “”I have to personally say that I liked it, because no one’s brave enough to write this kind of thing, so my condition was that he was brave, and that’s why he wrote it — to be bold.””

Not everyone at the magazine felt the same way about the piece, however, and UAPD was called and contacted the student who submitted the piece, Meza said.

Meza said that with Persona submissions or in the creative writing classroom, there should not be any restrictions on what a student can write about, even if other students or teachers are mentioned in the text.

“”That is called creative writing. That’s called amazing characterization, that you would feel that powerful about someone to want to do that to them in the story. We all write about people we know, whether or not we want to admit it. The best characters are those you know of. I don’t think there should be any line drawn,”” she said.

Creative writing senior, Alan Tanz, said there should be a line should be drawn concerning violence in the classroom.

“”If you’re being violent for the sake of being violent, you should be disciplined,”” he said. “”If your violence is seen as a threat, then you should be kicked out of the class.””

Sheehan said that keeping the creative writing classroom safe is dependent on knowing where to draw the line with content.

“”We all, as you can imagine, here in the Creative Writing department, are big proponents of freedom of expression and we want to help students develop as writers essentially without boundaries, except for the boundaries of creating a safe space in the classroom,”” she said. “”That safe space would include not writing about other students in the classroom or teachers and knowing where the line is drawn in terms of graphic or gratuitous violence.””

Brown said that though a line must be drawn, the department should never censor sex and violence completely.

“”Where is the line between something that is pornography and something that is art? Where is the line between something that is gratuitous violence and something that is violence as part of art?”” Brown asked. “”Every institution and instructor deals with it a little bit differently, and some institutions, some departments will really not let their students have that stuff in there, which is a big mistake because violence and sex is so much a part of our lives.””

 

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