Unexpected 'Monologue' Riles Faculty

June 9, 2014

Employees at a New Jersey community college filed complaints with the college’s administration after a professor recited a portion of The Vagina Monologues at a mandatory assembly for faculty and staff held roughly two weeks ago.

Mercer County Community College, which enrolls nearly 13,000 full-time and part-time students, received seven complaints from faculty and staff present at the event, Mercer spokesman Jim Gardner said.

The assembly, which approximately 300 faculty and staff members attended, was an end-of-year celebration that coincided with Mercer’s spring graduation ceremonies. The event highlighted the college’s “greatest moments” of the academic year. Full-time faculty and staff were “expected” to attend, Gardner said.

One of the moments the assembly highlighted was Mercer’s early March production of The Vagina Monologues. That earlier performance -- which raised money for Womanspace, a domestic violence nonprofit in the Mercer County area -- drew no blowback, Gardner said. Not so for the performance’s recreation. Of course, people who attended the full production likely knew they would hear explicit discussion of the play's eponymous organ -- something that people attending an end-of-year ceremony might not expect.

Mercer officials apologized that the assembly presentation, which included sexually frank language, offended some members of the college. But Gardner affirmed the institution’s commitment to free expression.

“As a college we strongly encourage freedom of speech and expression of new ideas and have never censored or required prior review of the content that’s developed by faculty and staff leaders,” Gardner said.

He added, however, that in light of the incident, “steps are being taken to modify the review process going forward” for such events.

Meanwhile, some other faculty don’t see what the fuss is about.

“It fascinates me how adults at an institute of higher learning are so bothered by the mention of a vagina,” Heather Jennings, an associate professor of psychology at Mercer, said in an email.

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