Issue 34 · November 2021

Nonfic

Facing our Closet of Skeletons – Brooks’ Latest Policy on Music Censorship Reveals Deeper Problems

On Thursday, November 11th, students and faculty members at Brooks attended a town hall forum discussing Brooks’ latest policy on music censorship. While the town hall has served as a long-anticipated platform for students to express their concerns, Brooks’ reactions to the music policy’s controversy reveal larger underlying problems within the institution’s DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) work.

 

The policy, which prohibits students from publicly playing songs that contain “any message that dehumanizes, degrades or demeans a group of people” and “any message that promotes violence, harassment or hate language or symbols” was met with criticism from a significant portion of the student body. During the town hall, students voiced their concern regarding the over-protective nature of the policy, ambiguity within its wording, and its potential of restricting the cultural representation of minority students. These arguments were made by students, specifically students of color, since the introduction of the music policy at the end of last school year; the town hall meeting is the result of a prolonged protest that was repeatedly silenced by the school. 

 

The music policy is Brooks’response after an incident regarding a non-black student singing the n-word along to a song being played at a school dance as well as Brooks’ attempt to foster an “anti-racist” environment after the Black Lives Matter movement. The policy is unsatisfying in many ways. First, faculties in charge of DEI work held different definitions of the policy: one faculty believed that the policy only censors songs with explicit lyrics while another stated that any song containing a harmful message would be restricted as well. Brooks has also made little to no effort to educate its students on the impact of language. Despite meetings being held within faculties and student leaders in DEI, little progress has been made. More dishearteningly, a student leader of the Gender & Sexuality alliance’s plan to speak about homophobic slurs in chapel service was immediately rejected. Under this context, the music policy feels like nothing but a desperate attempt to minimize incidents regarding racism without actually making Brooks a safer environment for minority students. 

When facing dissent from students, Brooks continued to be passive and even at times suppressive to students’ efforts to bring change. Despite the administration claiming that they appreciate knowing the perspective of the general student body, several student leaders’ proposal to send a schoolwide survey on the music policy was turned down by deans. Moreover, the first meeting within DEI student leaders and faculties to discuss the music policy abruptly ended when the leading faculty member of DEI work, a white woman, walked out the room when students politely challenged her argument to ban songs such as “Way 2 Sexy” by Drake and “Body” by Meghan Thee Stallion. Situations like this can be especially discouraging to students from engaging in candid discussions, therefore slowing down the process of developing solutions. 

 

The music policy demonstrates a tremendous liability within Brooks’ efforts to promote diversity and inclusion: hubris. The school’s refusal to accept critical voices diminishes its possibility to make real changes. Controversy regarding the policy is only a single facet of a larger problem that cannot be solved without listening to students. Yet, the administration’s authoritarian approach to enforce a policy that faces overwhelming student disapproval only highlights its obsession to look anti-racist rather than be anti-racist. Nevertheless, this does not mean that students who care about DEI should give up. As new platforms to discuss school policies, such as the town hall meetings, emerge, it is now more important than ever for students to apply pressure and keep fighting.

Anonymous

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