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Hiding the Truth from ourselves

“If life is a comedy, then why all the tragedy,” asks Singer Chris Rice in his song “Big Enough.” If we don’t know initially, we’re soon let in that the object of his question is God himself. Rice makes this clear in the chorus when he sings, “God if You’re there I wish You’d show me / And God if You care then I need You to know me / I hope You don’t mind me askin’ the questions / But I figure You’re big enough.” But God is not the focus of this piece.

Instead, I’ve always admired the song not for any admonishment of God, but for the starkness for which it deals with God. It’s blunt in saying, “I figure You’re big enough.” Indeed, one of my mother-in-law’s favorite question to religious students in her college biology courses was, “Do you believe God created the universe? Then don’t you think he can hold up to studying evolution?” In other words, Truth (and I use a big T not for religious reasons, but to emphasize importance and certainty) can stand up to any questioning. Dullards and cynics fear Truth, but not true seekers of wisdom. It holds true not only in matters of faith, but in all fields of knowledge. Just don’t tell the universities.

My alma mater has a habit of placing itself in the middle of fights about Truth. When Professor Hobo started there we often found ourselves on the wrong side of the school’s administration. That included both veiled and blatant threats against us not to question authority, as well as one strip that got us into a meeting with the then provost of the university who accused us of trying to get students on campus to kill themselves. Yep, we’re Svengalis of death.

Recently the Board of Regents of Murray State University stepped into a mess again. The Murray State News (the paper where Professor Hobo originated) published a “Special SEXtion” that included articles on sexting, sex norms from around the world, services provided by the campus Health Services office, and a student sex survey. Was it high class journalism, or even the finest sex reporting done by a college newspaper? Honestly, no. The section on embarrassing sex stories reads as fake as anything you’d read in Cosmopolitan or Penthouse, but that’s beside the point. The point is it scared the Board of Regents.

According to The Murray State News’ reporting of the meeting:

Board member Bill Adams said the special tab was not in the best interest of the University.

“(The edition) gave an opportunity to provide shock and awe,” he said.

Board member Vicki Travis said the section was in poor taste. She said she threw it away upon reading it.

“I didn’t want it in my home,” she said. “It doesn’t represent who we are.”

Travis proposed further consideration regarding cuts to The News’ University funding. [University President Randy] Dunn warned the board against this.

“This board gets into very dangerous territory when we use funds as a way to shape content,” Dunn said. “I have great concern about that.”

Following discussion, the board voted to instruct Dunn to send a letter to The Murray State News regarding responsible journalism and appropriateness of content.

With all apologies to Ms. Travis, the Truth is that college students are having sex. The “we” she speaks of I’m not sure, but I am going to assume if she simply meant her family this wouldn’t be an issue to address. So, if she means the university, the Truth is that sex is a big part of many, though not all, students’ lives. Hiding our heads in the sand from it won’t accomplish much, either. If her belief is that blunt discussion of the Truth about sex doesn’t belong in the public forum, might I ask where it does belong?

The answer is usually behind closed doors. Except, it isn’t happening there. Instead, college students derive their version of the truth from tall tales (see the embarrassing stories article) and popular media. Watch a few hours of Gossip Girl and you’d think college was one wild orgy. On the contrary, a quick search turns up the sex advice site Go Ask Alice, which writes:

A study of undergraduates at four universities showed how college students’ perceptions of their peers’ sexual activity can be overestimated. The study, by Scholly et.al., which asked questions about various sexual behaviors, shows that while 80 percent of students had 0 or 1 sexual partner during the preceding year, only 22 percent of those students believed their fellow students had one or fewer partners. Students in this study perceived their fellow students were more sexually active than they actually were. In fact, 59 percent of students reported having no sexual activity within the past 30 days. Similar findings have been reported in the American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment year after year. The majority of survey participants had 1 or fewer sexual partners during the previous year; however, the common belief among respondents was that their peers had at least 3 partners during the previous year.

Shouldn’t students be made aware of Truth like this? Why hide it away leaving their own imaginations to fill in the blanks? Aren’t we all big enough to admit that college students are going to have sex, but at the very least should be informed participants?

God, or any form of Truth, should be big enough for us to discuss it openly and frankly. Any writing that so scares people that they attempt to strip funding from a college newspaper is exactly the kind that usually leads to Truth. After all, isn’t that the point of a liberal arts education?

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