Governor Kathleen Sebelius
Office of the Governor
Honorable Governor Sebelius,
We protest the amendment to the 2003/04 Kansas State budget that would eliminate funding for the School of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas, as well as for any academic unit that purchases “obscene” videos for educational purposes. The amendment is an attack on academic freedom and, quite likely, a violation of the First Amendment.
The Kansas statute provides that material is obscene if, among other considerations, it lacks “serious literary, artistic, educational, political, or scientific value.” That the legislation has targeted as “obscene” material taught by a professional educator and considered educationally valuable by the University administration is an impermissible interference of the legislature in academic affairs. It imperils teachers’ right to teach and students’ right to learn. Such an action puts the legislature in a position of determining academic curricula, which is not its purpose.
The United States Supreme Court has repeatedly defined the university as the “quintessential marketplace of ideas” that warrants heightened First Amendment protection: even if other considerations compel limiting some forms of speech elsewhere, the university is the first and foremost place where it should be possible to express ideas without imposing conditions on them.
We strongly urge you to veto the amendment.
National Coalition Against Censorship
American Association of University Professors
American Civil Liberties Union
American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas and Western Missouri
American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression
First Amendment Project
Freedom to Read Foundation
Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association
Online Policy Group / QueerNet
Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS)
NCAC Committee on Sex and Censorship Members:
Prof. Leonore Tiefer, PhD., Clinical Associate Professor New York University School of Medicine
Prof. Carlin Meyer, New York University School of Law
Peggy Brick, author & sexuality education consultant