April 23, 2018

CA College Student Challenges Graphic Novel Syllabus

4graphicnovelsThe administration at Crafton Hills College, a community college in Yucaipa, CA, recently denied a student’s request to remove what she considered objectionable material from a college course on graphic novels. After enrolling in the course and purchasing her books, Tara Schultz was surprised to learn that some of the titles included mature material. “I expected Batman and Robin, not pornography,” she told the Redland Daily Facts (RDF). The four books on the syllabus she found objectionable included: Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin, 2006); Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1, by Brian Vaughan (Vertigo, 2003); The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House, by Neil Gaiman (1990, DC Comics); and Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon, 2004).

The course professor, Ryan Bartlett, defended his choice of these books:

“I chose several highly acclaimed, award-winning graphic novels in my English 250 course, not because they are purportedly racy but because each speaks to the struggles of the human condition,” he told the RDF. “The course in question has also been supported by the faculty [and] administration and approved by the board.”

Schultz and her parents spoke to the college administration to protest the material. Their ideal outcome, they stated, was to have the books removed from all class syllabi and the school bookstore—but if that were not possible they wanted to be sure students would be aware of the potentially objectionable content before purchasing. “At least get a warning on the books,” Shultz told the RDF. “At most I would like the books eradicated from the system. I don’t want them taught anymore. I don’t want anyone else to have to read this garbage.”

Although Crafton Hills College instructors are required to distribute a syllabus listing the material covered in class on the first day of the term, Schultz did not raise her objections to the books until after the January 30 deadline to drop the class. According to the RDF, she “chose to remain in the class to avoid receiving a zero.”


Deborah Caldwell-Stone of the American Library Association (ALA) Office of Intellectual Freedom feels that warnings regarding content unfairly influence readers. “Librarians have always had a concern with labeling that tends to prejudice a reader against a book,” she said. “We shouldn’t need labels that say something might be offensive because someone said so. Everyone is free to close a book at any time.”

Charles Brownstein of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a non-profit organization defending free speech in the comic book medium, agreed that such warnings are unnecessary, and perhaps students like Schultz should have done more research on the content of the course. “There are already sufficient mechanisms in place for customers, parents, and students to make informed decisions about the material they choose to read,” he told LJ. This type of objection is more common in a K-12 setting, Brownstein said, and is rare at the college level.

Following the Shultz family’s formal objections, Crafton Hills College president Cheryl Marshall issued a statement denying their request to remove the books from the syllabus. “I support the college’s policy on academic freedom which requires an open learning environment at the college,” Marshall said. “Students have the opportunity to study controversial issues and arrive at their own conclusions and faculty are to support the student’s right to freedom of inquiry. We want students to learn and grow from their college experiences; sometimes this involves reaffirming one’s values while other times beliefs and perspectives change.”



  1. Diana Tallent says:

    The first paragraph of the article says the student objected to four books when, in fact, there are five listed.


    • The article listed them correctly. You can see there are four when you bullet list them.

      -Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel (Houghton Mifflin, 2006);
      -Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1, by Brian Vaughan (Vertigo, 2003);
      -The Sandman, Vol. 2: The Doll’s House, by Neil Gaiman (1990, DC Comics); and
      -Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon, 2004).

    • There are, in fact, only four listed.

      In fact, you misread.


  2. I’m glad that the college stood up for themselves! It’s a normal part of college life, & life in general, to be confronted with things that make you uncomfortable. Like the article said, they either confirm your values or, your values change. College is a time to start acting like an adult. If you don’t like something you encounter in a course that’s fine. But do not limit other people’s freedom to access new ideas just because YOU don’t like them.

  3. It’s terrifying to me that there are people out there, especially in a country where terms like “liberty” and “freedom” are party of the common vernacular, who honestly believe it would be beneficial to “eradicate” books simply because you don’t like their content.

  4. Props to the school. Persepolis is a great book, as is the Doll House. I don’t know how this student thinks they know enough to decide what the course material should be. Why on Earth did she think she’d get Batman? These books make up a way better selection than whatever she wanted. Good chance she’ll learn something from them if she gives them a chance.

  5. I read Persepolis last semester, amazing true story of a young girls life during the Iranian revolution. I highly recommend it

  6. I was a student at Crafton Hills CC about a year ago and had this very same class (with a few differences in reading material). I loved it and acquired a whole new appreciation for graphic novels. Bartlett was also an awesome professor. Glad the administration didn’t give into such juvenile demands. This student clearly isn’t ready for college.

  7. I read Persepolis as an 11th grader in the IB program in California, I guess standards are different everywhere.

  8. What kind of idiot student wants to censor books?

  9. I read the entire “Y the Last Man” series and “Sandman” series on my own time, it would’ve been a dream to get college credit for getting to read those two amazing stories. I can only imagine the other two are fantastic, given the selection I’m familiar with. I’m glad CHC is standing their ground.

  10. I read Persepolis in high school. It was required reading one summer at my PRIVATE CATHOLIC high school. Good lord this child needs to mature before she can go back to college.

  11. Tikiwooki says:

    Can we take a moment to realize that HER PARENTS got involved?? Good grief, cut the cord.

  12. Seriously? She expected strictly DC and Marvel and other superhero stuff in a graphic novel course and she thought the stuff in it would be considered clean….. HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh man, that’s some funny stuff. Clearly she hasn’t read anything that’s been made “recently.” Let’s see, well there’s the graphic novel “Joker” which is full of blood, guts, drugs, sex, stripping, and Joker who is a full fledged jumble of chaos. There’s “Hellboy” full of satanic cult stuff alongside old world beliefs that any self proclaimed good christian would toss their stomach at, “Batwoman” is full of violence, the main character is gay. “The Killing Joke” is incredibly controversial in the case of the alleged rape and beating of Barbara Gordon that was done by the Joker with the intention of psychologically scaring Jim Gordon. And then anything involving Harley Quinn with Joker displays an incredibly abusive relationship. And the stuff I’m just touching here is mostly Batman and I know there is way more that I’m missing with DC and Hellboy.

    And lest we forgot the array of characters that Marvel has that are homosexual.

    Oh and Deadpool…. Well… He’s Deadpool….He does everything and says everything and I’m sure that’s insulting to this delicate flower of a student.

    I almost forgot Manga, seeing how that is a type of graphic novel and that’s tons of awesome weird stuff.

    Graphic novels should never be considered strictly “superhero.” They are a visual and textual medium that has a great deal of genera.Tara Schultz is a stupid narrow minded little fool. If she can’t handle the reading material and how mature it is, she shouldn’t be in a college level reading course.

    • I cannot imagine what her reaction would be to some manga that’s out there, like e.g. Gantz. Just blows my mind.

  13. I found it rather hilarious, that she wanted them banned from class and bookstore because it covers ‘mature’ topics. Shouldnt she br able to habdle that in college? Ibsuppose she is not 5 anymore. This just adds to all the fuss about trigger warnings and microagressions that are a topic at ao many unis lately. Cillege is about learning and not about shielding one from everything that might be a little offensive to a few

  14. Matthew Sarro says:

    The only thing I have against this list is that there aren’t more graphic novels included. “Barefoot Gen” is amazing, and was a keystone for a foreign literature class we had in college. “Maus” would also be fitting.

  15. Black Bellamy says:

    “I would like the books eradicated from the system. I don’t want them taught anymore. I don’t want anyone else to have to read this garbage.” — Tara Schultz

    Because they offend Tara, they should be eradicated. Eradicated.

    Just making this post so her name is more closely associated with that awful awful quote.

    May those words follow you forever, Tara.

  16. 50 shades of shame.