College Is No Place For The Sex Talk

This week, the administrators of Central New Mexico Community College, a public institution in Albuquerque, shut down until further notice the school's student-run award-winning newspaper, the CNM Chronicle. Administrators also attempted to confiscate copies of a run of the paper. The reason? The administration felt that the paper's sex issue was "offensive and not appropriate for the educational mission of CNM." The paper's editor-in-chief reported being ordered into the Dean's office and told the paper was "raunchy."

What went through the minds of the school's "Executive Team" and its Dean of Students, Rudy Garcia? One can only imagine . . . .


THE SCENE: The Office of the Dean at Central New Mexico Community College

THE TIME: Early evening.

THE CAST: RUDY GARCIA, Dean of Students, VERONICA JONES, his executive assistant, and ROGER TRUMAN, his deputy.


DEAN: More press calls. More emails. More inquiries. I tell you, people in this country just aren't used to firm leadership.

VERONICA: Yes, sir.

ROGER: They're certainly unused to leadership of this sort, sir.

DEAN: The security staff has confiscated most of the copies of this filth, I think. [HE SMACKS THE COPY OF THE CHRONICLE AGAINST THE DESK IN DISGUST.] I can't believe they thought they could get away with this.

VERONICA: No, sir.

DEAN: I mean, I keep my distance from such things, but I suspect those are prophylactics on this front cover. And dog chew toys. What do dog chew toys have to do with anything? And why are they so big?

VERONICA: Actually, sir, those are —


VERONICA: –those are for unusually large dogs, sir.

DEAN: Are they! Are they indeed! And why are they on the bed? And why isn't the bed made? In addition to the filth, why is our so-called student newspaper sending a message that slovenliness is acceptable?

ROGER: It's inexplicable, sir.

DEAN: It is! It is! With that sort of example, that's why the students dress the way they do! I apologize to both of you. It's highly inappropriate for this sort of thing even to be discussed in front of you. Especially you, Miss Jones.

VERONICA: Thank you, sir.

DEAN: The proper time for you to discuss such things is the morning of your wedding, with your mother. So I'm terribly sorry you've been exposed to this. And you, Truman.

ROGER: Yes, sir.

DEAN: It's no better for you. A man should not dwell on such things until, like the Bible says, you leave your father and mother and cleave unto your wife. Forgive my rough language, Miss Jones.

VERONICA: Yes, sir.

DEAN: Of course, you've already left your mother and father. But when you leave your roommate — what's his name?

ROGER: Vince, sir.

DEAN: — when you leave to join your lawfully wedded wife and Vince has to find a new roommate, that's the right time to think of such things.

ROGER: So I've heard, sir.

DEAN: Quite right! Quite right you have! But college? College is no place for talk of such relations, let alone for the relations themselves.

ROGER: No, sir.

DEAN: And to treat the subject so disrespectfully, and so wrongly! Why, look at this page where they talk about . . . . "positions." They are mocking the marital act. They're just making up things that don't even exist! They're giving them numbers! It's all just poppycock.

VERONICA: Yes, sir.

DEAN: What I don't understand is why we're getting calls from the so-called press about this. This is a matter of school discipline. This . . . is a matter of good order. Why should good order get so much attention?

ROGER: Well sir . . .

DEAN: Yes?

ROGER: It's just that . . . well, sir, these students are all adults.

DEAN: Adults?

ROGER: Right. This is a community college. Lots of these students are older than four-year college students. Most have jobs. Some of them have families of their own. Maybe the press thinks they are mature enough to handle this sort of discussion. These days, lots of them are even veterans —

DEAN: Mr. Truman, are you under the impression that soldiers are tolerant of ess-ee-ex talk? Let me tell you, military discipline brooks no such indelicacy.

ROGER: As you say, sir. But some people are saying that the paper has . . . has First Amendment rights.

DEAN: Rights! Rights! Rights yield to the interests of the community, as determined by people like me, Mr. Truman. That's the most important thing you need to know about modern higher education. I have risen to this position for a reason, and I determine what is fit for students to read.

ROGER: Yes, sir.

DEAN: We'll have no more discussion of this. The paper is closed. It will stay closed. Now, get me the course catalog. I've heard some very disturbing things about the curriculum in the Biology Department.

ROGER: Right away, sir.

Edited to add:



DEAN: Fine! Let everyone talk about relations! Let everyone talk about dirty stuff all they want! SEE IF I CARE!

[Runs from room weeping]

ROGER: . . .

VERONICA: Let's just pretend today never happened.

ROGER: Yes please.

Last 5 posts by Ken White


  1. says


    The heck, Ken? The twentieth century called; it wants its humor tropes back.

    A Hitler Downfall parody or GTFO.

  2. neight says

    Things move fairly slowly on their way to New Mexico. College students talking about sex is already a self parodying meme on the coasts.

  3. Dave Ruddell says

    This is one of the reasons it's a good idea, if at all possible, for your campus newspaper to be incorporated, like we had at UNC with the Daily Tar Heel. I suppose if the DTH pissed off the UNC administration sufficiently they could have taken away our distribution racks, but they would have been unable to shut down the paper.

  4. mcinsand says

    I'm not anything close to a lawyer, but Dave Ruddell is bringing some questions of mine up to the surface (despite the fact that he is from UNC. Not only did I spend the '80's at NCSU, but I'm pretty sure I was conceived there, since my parents were in the married housing dorm 9 months before I was born. Anyway…). Incorporation sounds logical to me as a way to set up a barrier. If the college owns the paper, then the college can decide what themes/articles the paper covers, right? First Amendment just guarantees that the government will not interfere with free speech, but that doesn't mean that every speaker has a right to someone else's megaphone. In this case, the college was not telling the people that they could not write and distribute such material, but the college had trouble with it being in an official college publication.

    This reminds me of what happened a couple of years ago when NFL dropped a country 'music' 'artist' because of private comments he made about President Obama. My right-wing friends were apoplectic and saying that it was a violation of the First Amendment. I vainly tried to explain how the First Amendment does not force companies to hire or select spokespeople that the companies don't want, and the government was not doing anything to tell the 'artist' that he couldn't make his comments. (Ironically, these were the same people that wanted The Dixie Chicks muzzled when they said things about President Bush.)

    However, even more important is just how appropriate this series of articles is for the target audience. Young adults most need good, clear, direct discussion on issues that they are facing, and sex is a whole family of those issues. If anything, the administration should have handed out recognition awards to the writers that took it on themselves to tackle the topics.

  5. bradley13 says

    I just flipped through the issue online. It is done in good taste, dares to be practical – really a nice job. Someone is being just a wee bit uptight.

    That said, if the college funds the paper, they do get a say in the content. Perhaps this will be the impetus for the students to find external funding sources.

  6. says

    You’re just a terrorist trying to intimidate the Dean’s free speech rights with your criticism. Oh wait, now I’m doing it. You have to stop posting this stuff; it’s part of your strategy to chill people’s expression of their right to . . . damn, I’m doing it again, aren’t I? Logic is hard. No, not that kind of hard. Shut up. Damn, that’s three times.

  7. orvis barfley says

    @merissa-it's more than ok to do it but nothing like ok to speak about it in anything like a public place.

    *farside*we have no clear picture how much the rest of the animal kingdom knows about us, but if they know very much, you know they laugh their collective butt off at us when we are around to get huffy and fuck up their environment.*/farcehide*

  8. perlhaqr says

    Hey, this has to be the closest Popehat has ever struck to home for me. I've known the Editor in Chief of that paper (Or, uh, former paper? About to be really well funded paper?) for nearly 10 years.

    *waves* "Hi Jyllian!"

  9. perlhaqr says

    mcinsand: If the college owns the paper, then the college can decide what themes/articles the paper covers, right? First Amendment just guarantees that the government will not interfere with free speech, but that doesn't mean that every speaker has a right to someone else's megaphone.

    I dunno. I mean, I get your point, and if this were a private entity, I'd be in full accordance with you. The college "owns" the paper, in that it funds the paper, yes. But the college itself is funded with tuition and tax dollars.

    So, if it's "government funded", is the act of shutting it down due to content "government censorship"?

    (I really don't know. I am open to arguments either direction. The answer to this question, of course, is totally orthogonal to that of whether it was a good idea to shut down the paper, even if it's not officially "government censorship", or whether Dean Garcia has made a laughingstock of both himself and CNM.)

  10. Luke says

    Government censorship is when the government tells you you can't write/produce/sell something.

    This is a government entity that is saying it will not fund things it sees as being in conflict with its mission.

    I'm not sure "award-winning" is that helpful either, since the paper at my school wins all kinds of awards, but everyone outside the journalism school knows it's a joke.

  11. mcinsand says


    After all of the times people have given me blank stares for using 'orthogonal' in a sentence, I have to save a copy of your post just to show that others know and use the word, too!

  12. Merissa says

    @orvis barfley: I'd like to see this fellow get stuck in the body of a female community college student for a while. I had my rear end groped more times in two years of college than in ten years of living abroad and taking the subway.

  13. says

    Crazy to think that just because I hyperlink "First Amendment rights" to a site about the First Amendment rights of college papers, that people will actually read it and consider it in discussing what rights papers do or don't have.

  14. Nate says

    The president of ASU tried to shutdown the student newspaper, The State Press, to appease a donor while I was there. I wish I could find copies of that paper and the subsequent reporting on it. As I recall the editor wrote a letter to the students assuring us he would stand his ground against the censorship. If I remember correctly I think the newspaper won out. Most students at the time had a low opinion of the president of the university. (I still do.)

  15. Tori says


    Maybe the inline link wasn't quite clear that it was to First Amendment rights specific to college newspapers. I know I didn't bother clicking on that link until I read your comment.

  16. says


    > Crazy to think that just because I hyperlink "First Amendment rights" to a site about the First Amendment rights of college papers, that people will actually read it

    I'm tempted to ask "Is this your first week on the internet?" but I've already been mean to you in this comment thread.

    …so I think I'll save that for your next post.

    And speaking of idiots on the internet, (a) I'm one, because I've wasted several hours this week playing, and (b) the range of throw-away usernames on that site is…. breathtaking.

    [ and not in a good way…as if that needed to be said ]

  17. PLW says

    [pedant] If it's illegal to shut down the paper, it is definitely not a good idea. Since knowing whether it's illegal or not can tell us something about whether its a good idea or not, the two questions cannot be orthogonal (in the mathematical/statistical sense).[/pedant]

  18. En Passant says

    The late, great, Paul W. Klipsch, who generously endowed the school of engineering at his alma mater New Mexico State University (previously known as New Mexico A&M), frequently used a common eight letter word to describe outrageous claims. He even made and distributed big bright yellow buttons inscribed with the motto in Olde English type.

    Perhaps such buttons should appear in response to the present claims about the limits of "the educational mission of CNM", worn proudly by its students. They can always say they are honoring the memory of a great patron of New Mexico higher education.

  19. Lucy says

    The scene: Orthodontist waiting area.

    The Cast: Mother seated next to her14 y/o son, who is seated next to his 16 y/o sister.

    Mother opens mobile to Popehat and reacts: My God if you can't talk about sex in college who CAN you talk to??

    Daughter: What? Let me see that.

    Mother hands over the phone.

    Son: We have the internet.

    Mother and son share an awkward pause.

    Son resumes his Scientific American

    Daughter hands back the phone.

    Thanks Ken.

  20. David Nagel says

    This isn't rare at all; it's all too common on college campuses. My paper at Cal State Long Beach was shut down several times, literally had the doors chained to keep us out. Following one shutdown, we dedicated our comeback issue's front page to illustrating which sexual acts are okay and not okay … just to be helpful and show were were on board with the administration's stance on sex. Here's a shot of my t-shirt made from that front page. The condition has deteriorated slightly over the last [cough] 21 years.

    On the plus side, the ACLU was fairly generous when it comes to defending student papers.

  21. says

    Since I do know about these things, I'll offer the nickel version. One, these are student activities fees, which aren't the same as tax funds in terms of the government discretion in how to spend them. At best, the government had a bailment of this money, and the terms of its expenditure are outlined in cases like Southworth. (For a rough analogy, imagine your workplace collects money for a coffee run. You pay $2 for a cup of coffee. It brings you back a Zima.)

    Second, the government doesn't stop being the government when it starts running a school, any more than it stops being the government when it runs a courthouse or a DMV. While there are restrictions on the nature of speech in any of those contexts, the restrictions are limited to what is necessary to achieve the legitimate goals of the institution. "We found it offensive" is never, ever, anywhere, ever, going to be a legitimate goal. Broadly speaking, courts have recognized that, in the college context, anything that doesn't cause the institution to stop operating is protected.

    There's other stuff in this particular situation, too, but that's the basic, generally applicable framework.

  22. says

    Adam, you're very new to this, so I have to tell you: the internet is no place for well-informed explanations from subject-matter experts. This is a place of belief and opinion.

  23. Shawn Young says

    Clicked through the link. I'm left with more (potentially dumb) questions than answers.

    1) If the administration dislikes what's being printed in the newspaper, how easily can it make it hard to publish future issues? The linked article said that financial support can't be withdrawn, but if it's doled out on a quarterly basis, can it be not renewed at quarter's end? If the physical plant needs a new tool room, how easily can the paper's offices be requisitioned? etc.

    2) Do the protections described extend to non-permanent fixtures on campus (leaflets, people marching with placards…)?

    3) Does state law come into play or is it strictly a federal thing if the First Amendment is involved? I'm asking because of 4) below.

    4) In re: Hazelwood, which seems to draw a line inbetween schools and colleges according to the link: if I understand it correctly, last year the Sixth Circuit used Hazelwood to chip away at college students rights in Ward v. Polite. Am I off base?


  24. says

    How would something like this play out at a private college? My university had some controversies over student groups inviting controversial speakers but I think they were resolved "in house."

  25. AlphaCentauri says

    First announcement:

    CNM felt the content was offensive and not appropriate for the educational mission of CNM. CNM funds the operations of the Chronicle, and as a publicly funded institution, CNM feels a responsibility to make sure public funds are being used to support the College’s educational mission.

    Several hours later:

    The reason that we pulled this issue from the news racks around campus was that a high school student was included in this issue and we needed to check on the legal ramifications of information on a minor in a publication of the college.

    So talking about sex is offensive an inappropriate, but lying to us like we're stupid is okay?

  26. perlhaqr says

    Well, Ken, I have to admit, you got me. I saw the link labelled "First Amendment rights" but figured it was just a link to, well, the text of the first amendment or something, I don't think I even hovered the link to see where it led.

    Consider me chastised.

  27. Erik says

    The CNM President's name is Katharine Winograd. Seriously. Winograd. I'm now afraid that the irony will short-circuit my iPad.

  28. SarahW says

    Isn't the more recent statement a heads up that the Dean intends to take more control of the paper, and want to remove the student editors discretion by replacing them with a school-supplied top editor or something along those lines?

    I clicked through that "first amendment" hyperlink and read a that the school can't shut things down when the school allows students editorial control. Wouldn't a back door method of censorship be to install editors more beholden to the school's mission, to no longer permit that student editorial control?

  29. James Pollock says

    I'm going to point out that the "we're all adults" probably won't fly. Community colleges A) have some students who are minors, and B) have some people on campus who are not students, and some of them are minors, too.

  30. says

    "I believe as a College we have failed to provide the CNM Chronicle with the level of editorial resources…"

    I find this reference to future increased levels of "editorial resources" to be troubling. I think this is going to prove to have been far from a complete surrender on the part of the administration.

    On a more personal note, I work at a community college and part of what I do is act as adviser to an anime club student organization. Part of the club activities is screenings of anime, some of which includes content that the most prudish among the administration would consider inappropriate (not hentai, but certainly not puritan either). They are adults and as a government institution we have no (or perhaps limited, but I'd rather pretend none for now) right to censor their screenings, but I worry that one day the wrong person will walk into the room at the wrong moment and everything will go to hell in a handbasket. So far, so good.

  31. DeathpÖny says

    As a former public servant I can say the "I believe as a College we have failed to provide the CNM Chronicle with the level of editorial resources…" line is established code for the school administration providing a watcher for all future Publications Board meetings so the admin has advance notice at least of future "interesting" content.

    In a less enlightened jurisdiction the obvious corollary relating to orders from said admin regarding publication or otherwise would naturally follow.