Controversy at QU library: First segregation and now censorship
Shabeb Al Rumaihi, a junior at Qatar University and JustHere contributor, weighs in on the latest controversy on censorship in the country’s largest institution of higher education.
Since its opening last year, the new library has been receiving attention for all the wrong reasons. As per the original design it was quite clear that there would be no segregation. Male and female students would be sharing the same academic space for the first time in history of the University. However, after complaints, fuelled by a social media frenzy (on the very first day) changes were made, forcing male students to enter the library from the fire exit!
Segregation, obviously, is going to be defended on the grounds of “culture” and “traditions”. But the latest incident involving censorship of academic books is going too far.
A few days ago some students shared on twitter a screen shot of books in the library (below, left) and started an attack against QU. The University released a public apology (below, right) that it would constitute a committee to censor references that are not accepted in our society.
Which begs the question: What is the significance of an academic institution then? Why are they blocking academic sources? Censorship has no room in the education of mature students. And why apologise? Qatar University could have sent a message that educational pursuit is not negotiable and nothing should be censored. Censorship is a violation of the academic integrity.
Censorship is a violation of the academic integrity… has no room in the education of mature students.
The title of the reference book that started this controversy is ‘S/he changing sex and changing clothes’. Yes it is inappropriate at certain levels and it is not acceptable in our society; but many students in the social sciences may need to conduct research on relevant resources. Anyone can google the description of this book and identify the topic. Furthermore, giving the excuse that our students can be misguided does not justify censorship. We can’t decide on what will misguide the students. We need to look at the bigger picture. We are living in the 21st century and we can’t keep our society in a bubble that censors everything.
Instead of controlling the entire electronic library by committee that can dictate what is acceptable, why not have a safe search option and maintain the freedom of research.
The university library is not for 5 year olds. It accommodates faculty, staff, students and graduates. Qatar University aspires to be an international research university, but it can’t if there is censorship.