Each year, Reporter releases a special themed issue. This year, we wanted to focus on the important and timely issues of gender and sexuality.  The social and legal acceptance of all forms of gender identity, sexual orientation and gender expression has become our generation’s civil rights movement. The purpose of The Gender and Sexuality Issue is to instill interest in and stimulate conversation about historically underrepresented and taboo topics that affect RIT and the community at large. This issue  explores the gender spectrum and those who live outside of it. It aims to open a dialogue about sexuality practices and preferences. It is important to discuss these topics because the health of the RIT community is dependent on the representation of all of its members.

We aimed to release this issue at Imagine RIT, in an effort to educate and inform the RIT and greater Rochester communities about these thought-provoking issues. However, during the printing process at RIT’s on-campus Printing Applications Laboratory (PAL), an individual objected to some of the content of the magazine and copied the file to members of the RIT administration. The file was eventually distributed to several Reporter Advisory Board members who reviewed the magazine without the consent of Reporter. This act of prior review is highly unethical and is not in the spirit of Reporter’s bylaws—which are approved by the institute president—that  states: “The Reporter Magazine shall retain all of the rights of a free press.” and that “It shall be the role of the Reporter Magazine’s Advisory Board.. to provide maximum opportunity for an educational journalistic experience in the full spirit of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America.” Reporter’s bylaws weren’t created for the sake of keeping up appearances or so the institute can proudly claim they support journalistic freedom; if they aren’t followed when they’re actually challenged, then what’s the point?

Alluding to New York State obscenity laws, the administration has decided to prevent Reporter from fully distributing at Imagine RIT. Until Monday May 5 the magazines will not be available on the campus-wide stands and may only be distributed from our booth in the Gordon Field House and only to individuals 18 years or older. These stipulations severely limit our distribution and consequently—intentionally or not— undermine the community that this issue aims to give voice to.

According to the Imagine RIT website, “Imagine RIT: Innovation and Creativity Festival is a campus-wide event that showcases the innovative and creative spirit of RIT students, faculty and staff. Visitors experience the breadth and depth of RIT through interactive presentations, hands-on demonstrations, exhibitions, and research projects set up throughout campus.” The event itself is not catered toward children or minors in particular. By blocking the distribution of our Gender and Sexuality publication as obscene content, RIT’s administration directly hinders the creative spirit of the students and writers that have brought this issue into print.

According to the New York State Penal Law Article 235, in order for the material to be obscene, the viewer must find that “...its predominant appeal is to the prurient  interest in sex…and considered as a whole it lacks serious literary, artistic, political and scientific value.”

Although our publication does display sexual organs, none are portrayed in a pornographic or “obscene” manner -- rather, they are displayed scientifically and informatively.

Imagine RIT provides a unique opportunity to disseminate information to the Rochester stage and beyond. It is a time when unaffiliated individuals come to the campus to learn about RIT and its students -- what we’ve done with our time here; what we care about. The themes we want to show all of you at Imagine RIT, those of gender and sexuality, are extremely important. These subjects have been systematically suppressed by positions of authority throughout history. That suppression and coinciding opinion that nontraditional sexualities and gender expressions are “obscene” has been a major root of extreme oppression and prejudice. Although not intentionally, RIT is stipulating in their decision that they endorse this bigotry. A journalistic publication highlighting gender and sexuality is not obscene. It’s educational, it’s informative and suppression of it is discriminatory.

If you care about gender and sexuality issues or if you care about free speech in the collegiate arena, we would encourage you to speak out. Reporter serves the RIT community and works to give voice to its members. Write a Letter to the Editor and send it to our Editor In Chief at rpteic@rit.edu. All letters will be read thoughtfully and some letters may be published.

To obtain a copy during the festival, please stop by our table in the Gordon Field House. On Monday, the magazine will be distributed across campus. If you should have questions, please contact rptprint@rit.edu or speak with someone at our Imagine RIT table in the Gordon Field House.

Read Letters to the Editor by clicking here