Risky Reading Requirements

The Arizona Daily Star reports that a Senate committee says yes to “letting university and community-college students opt out of required reading assignments they consider personally offensive or pornographic.”

The legislation comes about after complaints from a college student who says some of the required reading was morally unacceptable to some.

"A lot of students are being forced to choose between their personal or religious beliefs and the demands of education," she told members of the Senate Committee on Higher Education on Wednesday.

According to the article, one such book, “The Ice Storm," discusses adults and children experimenting with sex, drugs and suicide.

Sen. Thayer Verschoor, a Republican, has heard similar complaints from another student, and he says, "There’s no defense of this book. I can’t believe that anyone would come up here and try to defend that kind of material."

But some say the legislation is unsound. One professor said it would allow a student to demand alternative materials for anything considered "personally offensive." And that would include anything in the course, materials or activities that "conflicts with the student’s beliefs or practices in sex, morality or religion," according to the Arizona Daily Star.

Sen. Verschoor said the legislation will require work to narrow its scope before it goes to the full Senate. But he is not optimistic professors and instructors are willing to let students opt out of anything "because of the whole academic freedom thing."

Meanwhile, Sen. Jake Flake, a Republican believes students should be exposed to ideas they may find offensive. The senator used examples from his own educational experiences, but said no one should have to be exposed to "pornography and smut."