Seminar celebrates Saint Mary’s Banned Books Week

Editor’s Note: A previous version of this story misattributed a quote said by Ann Marie Short. The Observer regrets this error.

As part of Saint Mary’s Banned Books Week, the College held a virtual seminar Wednesday night discussing the book bans. Speakers included religious studies department chair Stacy Davis, English department chair Ann Marie Short, alumna Grace Maher from the St Joseph County Public Library and Kathy Burnette, owner of Brain Lair Books in South Bend. 

Davis kicked off the seminar with a discussion of the Bible. She said the Bible is the most banned book in history and one she frequently teaches in her classes.The Bible is used to justify the banning of other books despite containing the same graphic and controversial themes, she said. Davis said the move to ban books by Bible readers is not about the books themselves, but rather a power play. She explained the act is more about getting rid of ideas than books themselves.

Short also explained the theme and title for this year’s Banned Books Week: “Books Unite Us, Censorship Divides Us.”

“Banning books does capitalize on people’s fears, which are generally grounded in their fear of difference and having certain values and beliefs threatened by those who have different values and beliefs,” Short said. “People come around narratives because they show people what they have in common. Narratives are how people construct stories about themselves and collective identities.”

Short also discussed the importance of celebrating Banned Books Week on the Saint Mary’s campus. 

“At Saint Mary’s, we are cultivating students who think and make their own decisions and you can’t do that if you only surround yourself with ideas that make you comfortable,” Short said. 

Davis said reading banned books is a useful experience for students.

“It’s important for students to be aware of what’s happening, but also to be aware that more likely than not, they’ve read a book that is now being banned,” she said. 

Maher provided statistics that reflect the recent increase in banned book petitions. She also discussed the role of banned books in both school and public libraries.

Finally Burnette spoke about her experiences as a bookseller who specializes in serving marginalized communities. The bookstore store is a safe space for people of all identities, she said, adding that she works to be inclusive while also working to not support writers with exclusive opinions.

Several examples of banned books were discussed, including the most frequently banned book in the past year, “Gender Queer: A Memoir” by Maia Kobabe. Short also suggested reading Ibram X. Kendi’s children’s book “Antiracist Baby.” 

“People are so afraid of anti-racism as a concept that they will go after a children’s book,” Short said.

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Outdoor WiFi, lights, furniture to be installed in new Belle’s Corner outside Le Mans

Every day, students pass the west entrance of Le Mans Hall and watch as workers spread gravel, lay patio tiles and work to turn the space into… What?

Construction outside of Le Mans Hall on what will soon be a patio for the new Belle’s Corner outdoor space.

With no report from the College, Saint Mary’s students do not know what the construction is for.

In 2020, the space was a popular hangout spot called Belle’s Corner. Due to COVID-19 restrictions prohibiting eating in the dining hall, it was outfitted with tables, chairs and string lights to give students an outdoor seating option.

So why get rid of it?

According to Ben Bowman, director of facilities, the furniture used in Belle’s Corner was moved to Belle’s Backyard in 2021.

“We wanted that furniture to be closer to the main east and west walkway,” Bowman said. “We thought it would be more attractive.”

However, the College still wanted to offer an abundance of outdoor seating. The new Belle’s Corner will be a paved outdoor seating area with tables, chairs, lights and fireplaces and is currently under construction.

Bowman discussed many features of the new space, including highlighting its natural beauty.

“We’re trying to preserve the trees that are there and keep a canopy over the patio space,” he said.

The previous Belle’s Corner setup caused many issues with lawn maintenance, but the new permeable paver system will allow rainwater to travel between the pavers and down to the roots of the trees below, Bowman said.

Additionally, this new space will be outfitted with WiFi, something Bowman hopes will draw students to the space. There will be electrical power for a DJ booth for the patio to be utilized at outdoor events.

A map showing what the new Belle’s Corner will look like once construction is complete.

A common complaint among students, however, was the lack of information and student input.

“I don’t even know what’s happening,” said Le Mans resident and senior Isabella Thompson-Davoli. “I figured it out by now that it’s some sort of patio, but it would have been nice to hear about it from the College.”

Junior Le Mans resident Anna McMahon had similar thoughts.

“I really liked the way the area used to be, I hope it doesn’t change too much,” she said.

Bowman said there was input on the project, just not from students.

“There are a lot of administrative offices that overlook that space,” Bowman said. “They asked for facilities and administration input.”

Another common complaint from students was that construction is being done now rather than over the summer.

“I like the idea, but it’s going to be getting cold soon, so I probably won’t even use it until next spring,” Thompson-Davoli said. 

Bowman said there was no way around it.

“We had difficulty this summer with contractors and labor shortages,” he said.

Regardless, Bowman said the new space will require 180 tons of gravel and boast 400 inches of lights and 111 pieces of furniture. The construction will also maintain four trees that are natural to the area.

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Saint Mary’s ASL Club celebrates Deaf Awareness Month

The first week of September marks the beginning of Deaf Awareness Month, and Saint Mary’s American Sign Language (ASL) Club is ready to celebrate while also teaching students about Deaf culture and ASL. 

Junior and ASL Club president Emerson Henry has a particular interest in deaf awareness because she was diagnosed with a complete hearing loss at a young age.

“I was diagnosed with hearing loss at 18 months old, then later with profound hearing loss which means I have no hearing in either ear,” Henry said.

She said her parents had to make the difficult decision to get her cochlear implants, which involves a surgical process. 

Senior Maggie Clancy is treasurer of the ASL club. Similar to Henry, Clancy is hard of hearing and wears hearing aids. For Clancy, it is a family ordeal.

“I was 12 when I was diagnosed with hearing loss,” Clancy said. “My mom has a cochlear implant, but she lost her hearing over time and that’s just how it is in my family. None of us were born deaf or are part of Deaf culture in that way.” 

Clancy said the distinction between lowercase “deaf” and uppercase “Deaf” is important within the Deaf community. The National Association of the Deaf uses “deaf” when referring to the audiological condition of not hearing and “Deaf” when referring to a particular group of deaf people who use ASL.

“I was introduced to Deaf culture because my uncle is deaf,” Clancy said. “I always wanted to learn ASL to communicate with him more.”

Henry and Clancy both said people believing everyone who suffers from hearing loss uses ASL is a common stereotype.

“People tend to make that assumption, ‘Oh, you have hearing loss so you use ASL?'” Clancy said. “But that’s a big misconception that everyone uses it.”

Henry said the goal of the club is to teach ASL and bring awareness to all types of discussions within Deaf culture. She said the club is open to everyone, as they teach beginning signs such as the alphabet, numbers and introductory phrases such as “hello’” and “how are you?”

“It’s not like a class where you’re going over lots of material and doing projects, it’s just about teaching, learning, asking questions and immersing yourself into a new environment,” Henry said. 

Clancy said the club offers a more informal alternative to the Saint Mary’s sign language class.

“A lot of our club meetings have been very informal get-togethers to try and get people interested in learning sign language,” Clancy said. “It’s a good opportunity for people to sit down and actually be able to practice hands-on and signs that are interesting to them, that you might not find in a curriculum.” 

Henry started learning sign from the television show “Switched at Birth,” which features a deaf character. She recommended learning from sources as simple as YouTube and online resources from Gallaudet University, the only deaf university in the world.

Henry and Clancy both eagerly shared plans for Deaf Awareness Month.

The club is planning on hosting a showing of “CODA,” an Oscar-winning film about a child with hearing in a deaf family. The club will meet Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. and is open to all tri-campus students.

Katelyn Waldschmidt

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